The PhoneBoy Blog

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Location Based Services Generally Too Creepy For Me

We like to think–perhaps naively–that nobody can track where we are on our mobile phone. The fact of the matter is, the cell providers have to know where you are in order to provide that information when you call 911. Even without GPS, they have a good idea of where you are based on cell tower triangulation.

Location based services are a whole different beast. In exchange for some service, you are having to provide you exact location–via GPS–to someone. I personally find that creepy. I don’t necessarily want people that don’t have to know exactly where I am to know. There are relatively few applications where needing to know my exact location is required. Cell tower triangulation is accurate enough for most of the applications I’ve seen, though not all handsets provide enough information to application developers for triangulation.

People like geotagging photos, i.e. embedding GPS coordinates into the pictures. There are plenty of services that do this automatically with the mobile phone pictures you take. I personally find the idea of geotagging my pictures a bit on the creepy side. For day-to-day snapshots, geotagging is not necessary. I consider broadcasting that information on a regular basis entirely non-essential. It might be nice if I was on holiday to geotag photos or some other special occasion, but otherwise, the world does not need to know my exact location at any given point in time.

Micro blogging services like Jaiku support the concept of location, but it’s fuzzy at best. It uses cell phone towers to determine location. Since users can tag areas themselves, it can be as general or as specific as you want.

One location-based service I’ve found where the GPS actually makes sense is Trapster. This service allows you to report speed traps, red light cameras, and the like. This allows other drivers to be aware of where they are and gives you warnings much like a radar detector. It’s a neat application, but given the battery issues with GPS-enabled mobile phones and the lack of GPS-enabled mobile phones, this service might be just a bit ahead of it’s time.

Am I just being paranoid because they’re out to get me? Are location based services down to GPS precision necessary? What do you think?

Creative Commons License photo credit: avatar-1

#Cybersecurity Evangelist, Podcaster, #noagenda Producer, Frequenter of shiny metal tubes, Expressor of personal opinions, and of course, a coffee achiever.