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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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RE: This is stupid
By JasonMick (blog) on 12/5/2008 10:12:53 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
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.

quote:
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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GRyEnZMaig&feature...


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
quote:
give examples and data, if appropriate, to back your opinion

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


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