Don’t be Creepy: Location-based Services #1
When it comes to the exciting, emerging, exploding, area of location-based services (LBS), there really should be a sort of universal prime directive.
Here it is:
Don’t Be Creepy
I mean really. Spying on your kids with AT&T’s new family map? Yikes! (Admittedly, about 1/2 of the parents I polled on this said that their kids don’t get privacy until they are 18 and out of the house, while the other 1/2 said that they would rather rely on trust and continuous “where are you going” queries.) Regardless, I’m sorry – it’s just plain creepy, and thus it violates the LBS prime directive…if I do say so myself.
Loopt and Latitude are more complicated. From an engineer’s perspective: not creepy. After all, both give the user a lot of “dials and nobs” to control who sees you as you walk around broadcasting your position to the internet. But from a regular person perspective: way creepy. It’s just too easy to not get those settings right and accidentally reveal to your girlfriend that you are not, in fact, out with the guys but have somehow wandered over to your ex-girlfriend’s house. (Emergency lines for such incidents: “Probably just a bug in the GPS. It wasn’t me. Someone stole my phone! Really, I only love you, baby!”)
Cabulous lets you see nearby taxis on your smartphone map – the exact location of actual drivers. But it does not let anyone see you. You reveal your position only when you hail a specific driver and choose to let him – and only him – see where you are. (Presumably at that point you want the driver to know where you are.) If you do nothing else, your position disappears after a few minutes, and not even we at UpStart Mobile can tell where you are.
Ruling from the prime directive judges: Not so creepy.
(Just kidding…there aren’t really any prime directive judges, though we are talking to Leonard Nimoy and Shatner about it.)