Print 28 comment(s) - last by robinthakur.. on Dec 11 at 6:46 AM

The Loopt social networking app for the iPhone helps you keep track of your friends everywhere they go. It also lets you find out strangers names and whether they're single.  (Source: ZDNet)
Some of the new iPhone Apps are bordering on creepy

Call me old fashioned, but the rash of new "geo-aware" iPhone apps has me a bit concerned.  I hadn't heard much about them until my girlfriend called me detailing how sick she was of seeing constant iPhone commercials on TV and described a new one which details how the phone will let you know "where all your friends are all the time".  We're not talking a business name entered in some text box; we're talking the exact address via GPS information.

Digging into this phenomenon, there are multiple new social networks, including Limbo and Loopt designed for the iPhone.  Many of these apps use GPS to help track your location and even categorize what you are doing by the nature of your location.  Furthermore, some, such as Loopt, give your information to strangers when in settings like the bar or parties.  If strangers have an iPhone and are sharing, you can find out their name and if they're single.

Again, call me paranoid, but I see a lot of trouble coming out of these "brilliant" new features.  Human interaction is fundamentally based on acquaintance.  Psychotic behavior, such as stalking, theft, rape, or murder are relatively rare, but are still common enough that humans need the blanket of familiarity to help protect them from strangers, something that is instilled in children at a young age.

But what about the fact that many violent crimes, perhaps the majority, are committed by someone you know?  This is indeed true, but this neglects the fact that the human concept of acquaintance decreases the number of victims of violent crime from a stranger.

As these kinds of applications expand to track your location in more of a continuous fashion many other problems also arise.  For one, such applications may increase the risk of violent crime from those familiar with you by tracking your location at all times.  Some hesitate to commit such crimes for fear of getting caught, but if you could always know where someone is, some may take advantage of this to catch people in isolated locations.  This may also complicate law enforcement efforts.

However, perhaps the worst thing about these kinds of apps is that they will lead to many more unassuming conflicts due to their erasure of privacy.  Imagine how many relationships may end because someone finds that there significant other is not where they say.  How many guys will now get an earful after going out to eat with business partners and really going to a strip club?  Such scenarios sound silly, but they could become very real.

I know that the simple answer is don't adopt it if you don't want to share.  This is true; nothing is forcing you to share.  However, with the iPhone the new bestselling phone in America, these apps are reaching a large audience.  If the majority ever adopts such practices, it will become difficult to refuse to reveal your name and location whether you want to or not, for fear of ostracism.

Similar concerns arose when RFID implants in humans were considered a possible vision of the future.  However, the medical problems surrounding such implants nixed them from becoming widespread.  However, these same problems have quickly reappeared in a very different form. 

Apple is free to make its own business decisions, but if it’s going to cut apps, perhaps it should consider whether to allow these apps which compromise both privacy and security.  Further users should question whether they really want to promote such a trend, and the implications it might have on our society.  Track apps for the iPhone aren't the end of the world, but they don't seem like a very good thing, either.

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This is stupid
By oTAL on 12/5/2008 9:58:05 AM , Rating: 3
Your only looking at it through the negative side... it's like masher says - cars kill thousands of people!! Should we get rid of those?

The beauty of technology is that you can use it to suit your needs. Do you want privacy? Turn off the GPS temporarily. Do you want privacy without sounding any alarms? Download the app that *lies* about your location!!
Come on... this is a tool! Can it be used for "evil" stuff? Sure! But then again, IM is great for pedophiles to meet children online... Let's get rid of that!!!
At least please try to present a balanced article, Jason.

RE: This is stupid
By JasonMick on 12/5/2008 10:12:53 AM , Rating: 3
Do you want privacy? Turn off the GPS temporarily. Do you want privacy without sounding any alarms? Download the app that *lies* about your location!!

I already discuss this argument. If use becomes common-place not using it will likely lead to equal conflict.

I agree that the lying app is a pretty clever idea.

But as I pointed out, from a law enforcement perspective, most of these people who are victimized based on this kind of technology won't think twice about using it until its too late.

Again, as I said, its not the end of the world or anything, but it does seem like a developing problem.

At least please try to present a balanced article, Jason.

And as to that, this is a blog. Do you see Michael Asher, who you quoted making arguments and presenting data that the globe is warming? No, the idea of a blog is to state an unproven opinion on something and give examples and data, if appropriate, to back your opinion.

RE: This is stupid
By oTAL on 12/5/08, Rating: 0
RE: This is stupid
By WTFiSJuiCE on 12/5/2008 3:33:07 PM , Rating: 2
It's definitely true that there are always upsides and downsides to everything and the iPhone is no exception.

The iPhone isn't at total fault here, its more the apps that are being created that carry the possibility of creating more of these downsides than the core product itself unless the product already came with it all pre-installed of course.

The ability to track people precisely at all times through your phone does seem very handy to rationally minded people who are within their right mind.
And yes, people probably do have the option of turning off their phone GPS (I do not own a iPhone so I honestly don't know), but out of all of the iPhone owners, how many of those people would actually have the awareness to do so or possess the know-how and ability to do so? I'm afraid that I would have to probably put the ones who are aware into the minority category despite however sad that might seem.

A large problem about this GPS tracking app is the potential it creates for certain situations. Because people are rational, they always carry the possibility to become equally irrational for whatever the reason and anyone can possess a different reason that leads them to do so.
A jealous boyfriend suspects his girlfriend of cheating after accessing her iPhone and seeing a majority of calls to a man/guy friend she knows. The boyfriend becomes increasingly irrational and confirms his unfounded suspicions and proceeds to use her iPhone + this app (Loopt? I think it was called that) to track him down and generally harass him or maybe even kill him.

It reminds me of the story of the Ring of Gyges. A ring that would enable the wearer to become invisible so long as he wore the ring. Plato explained that man innately wishes to do good, but given the oppurtunity to do wrong without fear of repercussion, the man will choose to do wrong. There are always a few anomalies but this goes for the majority of people.

Honestly people, do we really need iPhone wielding drunk chicks throwing out or being coerced into giving their numbers to strangers who then put them on their Loopt app and then potentially stalk/assault/rob/murder them?

Do we really need pissed off iPhone wielding 35 year old men who just got their Tier 13 Helmet ninja'd from the latest 25 man raid instance in WoW by someone in their own guild using their Loopt app to track down the person and commit a murder-suicide?

I can see it now tho... NEW Loopt 2.0 a new built in ability to hack satellites and take photos of the people you track, wherever they are!
Also, the new "Goldeneye" limited edition iPhone that connects to that secret Russian satellite that everyone knows about, you know, the one with the ::quote hands:: la-ser ::quote hands:: and lets you incinerate the house of anyone on your friend list!
Now with 64GB SSD included so you can listen to more music or watch more videos while you do so.

RE: This is stupid
By xxeonn on 12/9/2008 8:25:14 PM , Rating: 2
This is the exact same problem that Ubiquitous Computing designs are suffering from now. Here is a video that explains it all.

RE: This is stupid
By robinthakur on 12/11/2008 6:46:49 AM , Rating: 2
Firstly, I think everyone is taking Jason's specific example a little too seriously. As far as I know the iPhone doesnt permit apps to run in the background, so you would have some control over whether you want to reveal your location. Second the iPhone does prompt you on whether you want to enable geo-tracking on App start. Thirdly, its not just the iPhone which supports GPS tracking and at least with the App store vetting procedure you're less likely to see maliciously inclined apps to make it into people's hands. Certainly everything i've used the GPS for on iPhone has been really interesting, seeing where the possibilities lie.

In the future it might have its downsides, but not today. The most annoying thing today is that not everyone owns a phone with GPS or an iPhone, honestly...trying to guide somebody who's lost is so much harder when they can't just send their darn coordinates.

RE: This is stupid
By GaryJohnson on 12/6/2008 5:09:36 AM , Rating: 2
give examples and data, if appropriate, to back your opinion

Was there data that backed your opinion in your article somewhere?

By Kenenniah on 12/5/2008 11:22:27 AM , Rating: 2
If the majority ever adopts such practices, it will become difficult to refuse to reveal your name and location whether you want to or not, for fear of ostracism.

Come on. If someone would shun you because you choose not to run these kind of apps, would you really want them to your friend? Sorry, but anyone that chooses who to be friends with based on their phone features and applications isn't worth being around.

As for the rest of it, I do agree these ideas are a little creepy. If someone wants to know where I am they can damn well ask me. I think society is in general is becoming too accepting of a lack of privacy. There is such a thing as being TOO connected. The younger generation seems too eager to constantly let everyone know what's going on in their lives through blogs and social networking sites. Now we are adding GPS monitoring of our friends. What next?

RE: Ostracism??
By oTAL on 12/5/08, Rating: -1
RE: Ostracism??
By Kenenniah on 12/5/2008 2:32:14 PM , Rating: 2
True, but again if my "friends" are too lazy to make a quick phone call or send a text...well I can handle "missing" out. The point is, if you have good friends that actually want to spend time with you, it's not going to matter. If it's a hassle for someone to dial a number then obviously they don't really care that much.

Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I prefer having a few close friends where stuff like this isn't needed. I'll take one or two close personal relationships over many technological relationships any day. My real friends already know what's going on in my life through actual direct conversation.

I've also noticed that many of the people that complain about their privacy rights when the government does something are the same ones that post anything and everything out on their My Space pages. They make the information publicially available, then complain when a potential employer finds out.

I do understand though why people with different preferences than mine would be interested in apps like these. I don't think Apple should ban the applications or anything of the sort. I would assume that the user can choose who can see them on GPS, so I don't really see it as dangerous, just something that doesn't suit me.

RE: Ostracism??
By oTAL on 12/6/2008 8:22:08 AM , Rating: 2
I think this all depends on how quickly social habits change...

Obviously neither of us is a teenager... but I do remember there were nuances at the time that I thought were important (different times though - no teen had a cellphone when I was 16).

For example, I lived close to my school but at some point I learned that having lunch at school with my friends was an important part of the bonding process. Without that I was missing out on over an hour of group time which meant private jokes I didn't get and conversations I had missed.

Furthermore, don't expect people to stop inviting someone from one day to the next... it's a gradual process. I do remember that when a friend was suddenly involved in an intense romance and dedicating a lot of time to that, people started calling less and less... were they bad friends? no... but you tend to think of the people you spend more time with, when you want to make plans...

As a final note, think of the habit of IMing in the evenings or SMSing all day long. Most kids do both these days. It's a part of how they keep in touch and form relationships . A kid that does neither has a serious disadvantage in forming friendships.

It doesn't matter that in our time we did neither and had friends... they expect their friends to keep in touch and share a bit of their life even when they are having a family trip 500 miles away. Those who don't, start to drift to the bottom of the friend pool... can you see the trend?
I mean, most of my latest romances went through an IM intensive phase - you meet the person, exchange contacts and then you casually chat and start making plans over IM... beats making a call...

I don't think this can ever affect us adults, and I don't agree with how Jason dramatized *the evils of this new technology* (as I stated in my other posts). However, GPS enabled social networks will have a part in how future generations form relationships - have no doubts about that!

RE: Ostracism??
By wordsworm on 12/7/2008 11:03:21 AM , Rating: 2
I think you have a lot of good points here. Primarily, your arguments about how children are just using superior tools to navigate through their social connexions rather than failing to make good relationships because they don't make use of what we used is, I believe, absolutely correct.

When I started getting into sales, I used to try to imagine the original arguments between salesman and farmer when telephones first started making their rounds.

Salesman: You know, you can talk to your friends with the telephone.

Farmer: What in tarnation do I need with a gizmo like that? If I want to talk to my neighbor, I just grab my horse and visit. Back in my day, we didn't have phones to talk to each other. We met each other face-to-face! This new fangled stuff is so 1884!

Where I disagree with you, oTAL, is your assessment of Mick's article. We, as a society, need to consider the disadvantages, and in particular the dangers that a given technology might cause. While he could have delivered a better analysis of the positive aspects that this, Apple's version of social evolution, implies, I feel that this is Job's job. Keeping a close eye on how predators can use this new tool to help them in gaining prey is important, though I think such technology could potentially help parents steer their children clear of such threats could also prove beneficial.

RE: Ostracism??
By FITCamaro on 12/8/2008 8:50:36 AM , Rating: 2
What next?

Rectal implants that tell you what your friends have been eating.

RE: Ostracism??
By Ordr on 12/10/2008 5:32:59 PM , Rating: 2
No need to add sex-appeal to this thread.

What I want to know...
By Vanilla Thunder on 12/5/2008 4:14:21 PM , Rating: 2
is why this article wasn't written when Helio started doing this with their handsets? Unless something with a shiny apple on it runs the app, I guess it's just not blog-worthy. More of the same from just the person we'd expect it from.

RE: What I want to know...
By Schrag4 on 12/5/2008 5:26:47 PM , Rating: 2
I don't really think you're being fair here. Sure, Jason does a lot of Apple related blog posts and articles, but Maybe Jason didn't write about Helio because, well, what the hell is Helio? Besides, this is NOT a typical Jason/Apple blog/article. I'd say it's actually critical of Apple for once :-p (just giving you crap Jason!)

RE: What I want to know...
By Vanilla Thunder on 12/6/2008 9:33:37 AM , Rating: 2
You can get up off your knees and stop kissing Jason's ass anytime now. The least you could do is be a Masher groupie.

RE: What I want to know...
By CrazyBernie on 12/6/2008 8:57:09 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds to me as though you just don't like Jason. Either that or someone shat in your coffee this morning. But belittling someone for disagreeing with you hardly lends you any credibility.

RE: What I want to know...
By Schrag4 on 12/9/2008 10:41:06 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, I didn't expect that response! If you actually read my post you'd realize that I basically made light-hearted fun of Jason for always writing about Apple. I actually disagree with Jason more often than I agree with him, but that doesn't mean I have to treat him with disrespect.

Responses like yours are basically why people can't have honest debate. Once it becomes personal, people close their minds...

Don't worry about it...
By CrazyBernie on 12/6/2008 8:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
... because no reasonable person would believe it will actually work anyways.

RE: Don't worry about it...
By FITCamaro on 12/8/2008 8:48:33 AM , Rating: 2
Nice. Probably the best comment so far.

As far as this technology goes, I'd never use something like this. I hardly need people to know where the hell I am at all times.

Public relations nightmare
By DOSGuy on 12/5/2008 9:18:15 AM , Rating: 2
Ironic that Apple, which famously introduced the Macintosh with an award-winning ad about 1984 in which Apple represents the lone hope against Big Brother, ended up creating the very world Orwell predicted by allowing Big Brother to track you anywhere on Earth. (

Anyway, Jason is quite right that the majority of victims of violent crime know their attackers. During the past year there have been at least half a dozen cases of murder suicide where an ex-husband killed his wife, children, and her parents before taking his own life. These men didn't need GPS to know that their ex-wives had moved in with their parents, but the point is that acts of violence and murder usually aren't random, but are committed by people who know you well enough to find you on one of these apps. Now your jealous current or former boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife can more easily find you, and wait for a time when you won't be around people who can defend you or call 911.

It's easy to say, "if you're that afraid of your ex-husband, get rid of the app/iPhone", but victims don't always see it coming. You think your boyfriend loves you and would never hurt you, and one day he finds that love letter that a co-worker gave you and does something totally out of character -- something unexpectedly violent. The first person to be killed by someone who tracked them down through their iPhone will create a public relations nightmare the likes of which Apple has not known. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Apple and their exaggerated attacks on rivals, the Big Brother label is hard to shake.

By angryandroid on 12/6/2008 6:48:51 AM , Rating: 2
Oh what a good development. I had no idea an iPhone could do this, I am getting one straight away. Usually, stalking requires a lot of effort - but with this new technology based method it will be so much easier!

Thanks for the heads up.

Brilliant Apple strategy
By wordsworm on 12/7/2008 10:26:13 AM , Rating: 2
You know, as much as folks like to put the ideas of 1984 in a negative light, the truth is that we as a society love it. The concepts in religion, God being everywhere, reading your mind, and Hell, aren't so different from the concept of having a TV that watches you and a ministry of Love.

That being said, this is very much an Orwellian concept. Those of us who like privacy are shocked by such ideas, surely. However, deep down inside, we love stuff like this. Imagine as an employer, having some sort of computer that tracks employees, sex offenders, spouses, and that sort of thing is something we crave, even if we don't admit to it. When the eye is on us, we are upset. But when it's our eye on someone else, we *love* it. That's the reason celeb TV garbage is so popular.

Other applications could be intriguing, on the other hand, if there are good controls on it, as I'm sure there are. Imagine you do happen to be on the same street as a friend you like to meet up with, but you're on opposite sides and not likely to see each other, and then your iPhone lets you know that he/she is there. Well, I think that's brilliant. I haven't seen the commercials, since I only watch TV shows I like on DVDs. I can only imagine that they'd make me sick of the company.

The issue here, for it to be successful (in my opinion) is the ability to control how it functions, the ability to set things and put locks on them (employer locks the GPS tracker and inhibits the employee from tinkering with.)

In any case, I do believe this technology is a Pandora's Box. It will be interesting to see how it evolves.

And... to counter all the anti-Mickisms going on around DT, thought I'd say this was an interesting article, well written and thought out.

By VooDooAddict on 12/9/2008 1:34:35 PM , Rating: 2
I wouldn't mind this if I could set it to only be active at particular locations.

If I could set this to be on ONLY when I'm at favorite social locations. Only when at my favorite bar, resturaunt or coffe shop; Hide my locqation when I'm anywhere else.

Think of it like some video game instant messaging systems, Steam Friends or XFire. They report to my firends when I'm playing a game (as the might want to join), but don't report all of my activities. I'd hate for friends to realize how much time I loose to dailytech and slashdot.

Satellite Tracking
By iFX on 12/9/2008 4:01:41 PM , Rating: 2
Most phones have the option of disabling Satellite Tracking. I keep tracking disabled on my phone. This seems like a no brainier if you don't want people tracking you.

By Radnor on 12/10/2008 11:30:45 AM , Rating: 2
Usually posting here on JMick blog or article i usually flame.

But this time let it to the people to use it. All those things might happen, yes. Will there be some damage in the beginning if this become widespread ? yes of course.

Like "Notworking networks", mIRC, all the crap that flies in the internet. People will suffer ? Of course.

Now, will it be useful or just a trend ? A funny possibility that will last less time than Higgs ?

The Iphone is not that much widespread to cause damage. And you still got to pay for the app. And early adopters like ourselves love to tinker, try, and think about the endless possibilities that idea/functionality has.

Normal people want it to work.

And while this functionality does give some great possibilities (good and bad), Joe Consumer will probably use it, or not.

Like many other things, we shall see.

By Shadow Conception on 12/10/2008 4:00:56 PM , Rating: 2
Was anybody else reminded of minimaps like in GTA4 by this?

Pretty soon, prospective hitmen worldwide will be hunting red dots on their nifty new iPhone maps!

On the flip side, cops, signified by flashing red and blue opaque circles, should have a better chance of tracking a
"stalker" down.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

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