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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: 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.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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