OK to us Brits it’s a handbag, but this techcruch story is a interesting one both highlighting a technology story and a how old media deals with a technology story story ! A lady in silicon valley loses her bag, but because in it there is a phone which is running Latitude, it is tracked by her sister and recovered by the police.
A positive story about location tracking, yes but.. of course the concerns about the ability of third parties to track you location are quite rightly expressed here. I am not going to argue that this is not appropriate on the contrary I think as an industry we need to be very open about how this technology works, what information is stored, who gets access to it and how it might be used.
Ultimately location aware applications will take off in a big way, when their usefulness from the perspective of a potential user is greater than the difficulty to install and use them plus the loss of anonymity given up to use the system.
The ease of use element to this equation is improving though better user interface design and technology development, the issue of anonymity I argue needs openness from the technology companies and education. I think Google, Yahoo, Loopt, Brightkite, Foursquare etc. are doing a pretty good job in explaining how location aware applications work and have been explicit as to what information is stored and for how long.
The “industry best practice” is there is such a thing, is to store just a users current location, in an anonymous fashion, only after the user has opted into the service and is reminded a regular intervals that they are using such a service.
As part of the education process around location aware services, it is also important to be clear that already telecoms providers make the location of mobile devices available to the authorities when requested along with details of calls made, IP traffic etc., so some level of perspective is also useful.
The big challenge remains making compelling applications that prove to users that sharing their location with others is useful – Handbag hunting is a start..
Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.