Private Private

Reading time: 2 mins

Continuing the terrible titles, this is a take on Catch-22, for no particular reason other than being able to play on the word “private”. Think yourselfs lucky I didn’t choose the schoolboy route and go with “Show us yer privates”.

Oddly the only reason I’m writing about this is because Twitter is currently dead, if it wasn’t then my comment on the issue would’ve been something along the lines of “@plasticbag – nice pic on BBC website! And don’t some people get in a tizzy sometimes..”.

At this point I should probably explain that I’m talking about the recently opened Fire Eagle service which

“… stores information about your location. With your permission, other services and devices can either update that information or access it. By helping applications respond to your location, Fire Eagle is designed to make the world around you more interesting! Use your location to power friend-finders, games, local information services, blog badges and stuff like that…”
[from Fire Eagle help page]

It’s a smart idea, and one which plays nicely into the fact my iPhone has GPS built-in so I can ping exact location information back to the Fire Eagle website at any time I choose. Clever.

But, of course, the privacy nutters (I use the term advisedly) have leapt all over this, stating that locational information could be stored by any of the 3rd party websites or applications that use Fire Eagle and then they’ll know where you have been!

Don’t get me wrong, I realise such things could be abused but from what I can make out Fire Eagle has considered such things. For starters they let you control the level of granularity of the geographic information that you share with other services, from pinpoint co-ordinates to a “I’m near this city” level location. Whilst you can purge your current location from the service at anytime, the privacy busters are more concerned about the historical information that could be stored.

Now I can see that will be an issue for some people, and that having a system know where you’ve been is worrying as it will, no doubt be used to guess where you will be at a given time and then… umm… yeah. Not sure what happens then.

Worse is the possibility of a hi-tec burglar watching out for your location changing before breaking and entering your house. These days I’d guess it’s not that hard to find an address for someone who looks rich, use Google maps to get the geographic co-ordinates of their home and then just wait until they update Fire Eagle with a new location (hey hang on, that DOES sound simple, eep!!).

Or, you know, if you are worried about it DON’T USE IT!!

And no, I’m sorry but the argument of “some people won’t know any better” doesn’t cut it. If they don’t know any better why are they signing up for a service they don’t understand? The Fire Eagle website does a pretty good job of telling people what it is all about so perhaps we need to shift a little responsibility on to the individual?

I’m sure some of you have stronger opinions on this topic than I do, I’d love to hear them. But be prepared to be mocked for, if I’m honest, I really don’t believe the end of the world is nigh because someone knows where I am.

14 comments

  1. I’d sooner be safe and totally avoid things like this than be sorry 20 years down the line.

    I just cannot think what beenfits such things might have for me anyway.

  2. And, I think it’s something about me controlling information rather than infomration controlling me, and information overload (oh the irony!) that concerns me. More information = more stress.

    As a nation, our lives are physically easier than ever before, but our mental health is at an all time low. Why? More information = more stress.

  3. More information = more stress?

    No.

    Bad management of information = more stress… maybe, remember all these things are OPT-IN, and most things have an OFF switch.

  4. I don’t agree Gordon.

    Most people (and I don’t mean advanced IT professionals such as yourself, but rather Jo(e) Public) clearly don’t/can’t/won’t use the off switch, or know how to manage/sort/assess the quality of information, or they wouldn’t be so stressed. And quack therapists wouldn’t proliferate…

    IMHO of course, based on professional qualifications and 20 years experience in this sort of area…

  5. There is nowhere to run!

    I can’t even hide in the woods because “they” have those infrared night vision binoculars thingies and I’ll be found, given away by my own body heat.

  6. If Joe Public goes to Fire Eagle and signs up for an account. And Joe Public downloads a Fire Eagle app for the phone. And Joe Eagle links Fire Eagle to facebook. Then I think Joe Public has very little to complain about.

    For the rest I completely agree with Gordon, I think Fire Eagle has great potential as a big enabler.

    I think those who don’t see value or are paranoid about the service wont and shouldn’t use it.

    Those who do see value will use it.

    I also agree with Gordon that more information doesn’t cause stress. Poor information management does. And we live in a world with information overload. But their is benefit in the stream, and good and detailed benefit. You want the benefit you need to get involved in the stream.

  7. Anyone not a techie and/or doesn’t live in a large town/city and doesn’t buy into consumerism see the value of this sort of stuff?

    Enabler? Stream? Do what? Media media media marketing marketing marketing speak. I don’t want advertisers telling me what to think. I have a brain and am quite capable of doing my own research wherever I may be.

  8. So, your point, BW, is that you don’t have a need for this. So why buy into the idea? Don’t. Simple.

    As for the media marketing.. I’m not sure what you are getting at.

    You let advertisers for other things tell you what to think? Other people may do, yes, so they need protecting?

    I’m certain everyone is aware you have your own brain, and of doing your own research, Frankly if this kind of thing doesn’t interest you, why all the kerfuffle? Ohh yeah, privacy.

    The steps Adrian outlines, signing up, connecting, hooking in another application, take time and you need to be technically capable. By your own argument, BW, that rules out some of the people who may not realise what they are signing up to because they are following the marketing media? I think??

  9. So the reason it’s all okay is because only techie people can jump through the hoops to make it work, and they’ll have understood the implications?

    I’m not convinced that all the techie users will have understood the implications, but even if I grant you that…

    What happens next year when the service is improved and it doesn’t need all those steps?

  10. Ah ah! Adrian Mc has come to the same conclusion that I did at some point last night when I was pondering this some more.

    My unease is simply where this will lead in the future.

    Look at how many small useful things are now mainstream/forced on one if one wants other things – often becuase small company is bought out by a Giant. I do worry about data on individuals being amassed by the likes of Google and Yahoo and connected corporations (who then offer it to the governmint – look at what Te$£o is doing with Clubcard info).

    Why do they need it? If they don’t need it, why are they storing it as individually identifiable data?

    Also, others using it around where one is will make more and more noise pollution as these things seem not to be able to do their stuff quietly. Beep beep beep.

    It’s not a case of if one doesn’t like it, or see a need for it, then don’t use it, the chances are it is the future and we will all be assimmilated.

  11. “Most things have an OFF switch”

    In reality, no, they don’t.

    Even “unsubscribe” or “leave” options usually mean that you’ve left your data on the server somewhere. It’s just that you can’t get to it any more.

    It’s *incredibly* rare for any company (on or offline) to actually delete a customer’s data when they say they want to leave the company, and not use their services any more.

    So no, even if I were to sign up for [xyz] service, then decide it’s shit, sign out or ‘leave’, my username and password are still there, along with any data I uploaded at the time.

    Yes, sure, it’s all about opting in. But – and this is always my reservation – when I want to opt back out, I should be allowed to do so, and not to leave behind any data. Leaving/Quitting the service should be just that – if I decide to opt back in again at some point in the future, I should have to go through the registration process clean – not to type in “lyle@d4d.co.uk” as my email address, only to be told “That’s already in our system”.

  12. What exactly is the point of everyone knowing where everyone else is? Times I feel very thick. Even kids need some space to grow up away from parental eyes. And if married people always knew where their spouses were then I wouldn’t have had a sex life. Called privacy.

    Anyway, Gordon – I do love the way you bring these things to us. I’m sure I first read of Flickr here. Now that IS a great app 🙂

  13. I’ve read some of the FE comments now, and can hardly believe what I’m seeing. An urge to constantly tell people where you are strikes me as the desperate measure of someone who has no interesting features whatever. Devoid of any personality, they’re reduced to screaming, “Look where I am!” the whole live-long day.

    Twitter is borderline idiotic… this one goes the whole hog. Afraid I agree with all the naysayers above.

    I’m sticking to blogging. At least there’s some creativity, some skill involved.

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