Managing personal data
Two recent releases. one app and a new phone, highlight a couple of issues we have discussed recently – personal location information and data privacy.
The Connect web/iOS app allows users to map the location of not only the contacts in their address book but also connections in their social networks. In a TechCrunch review Sarah Perez quotes one of the co-founders Ryan Allis as saying the app aggregates data from social media rather than using GPS to track connections which he considers a bit ‘creepy’. App users request access to their social media networks and once configure, the app will display connections on a map, based on their current address, a check-in via another application such as Facebook or from a geo-tagged posts on other platforms such as Twitter. The app also provides some options for configuring how and when connect alerts will be received (for example, when a favourite contact is within a certain range from your location). I wonder if those same connections realise just who may be using their location information? When they update their location, maybe they don’t want some of their connections to know they are in town? Will the more public social media platforms, such as Twitter, also provide options for users to broadcast their location information selectively or will the default position remain by choosing to make your location available, you accept you will have little or no control over who has access to it and how they use it? Apps like Connect introduce new options for keeping track of contacts but it’s also a reminder to think carefully about posting location information online.
As for the phone, the recently launched Blackphone uses encrypted messaging and calls (both sender and receiver have to use the same device or app) to restrict access to data. Any casual snooper would see the traffic but should not be able to access the content, although the phone makers stress that the device isn’t 100% hacker proof and a determined individual or organisation would still be able to get at the data. Following on from our post on the secret lives of phones, the Blackphone also promises to provide more control over both how and what data is transmitted wirelessly (often unknown to the phone user). Hopefully such default privacy settings will soon be the norm, not the exception.