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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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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.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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