Location Location Location

High-end phones like the iPhone and the Google G1 have built-in GPS. Atm this is mainly used for directions, and maybe google maps searches for attractions nearby, but that’s just the shoot of the carrot. Location data, when combined with an internet connection, lends itself to all sorts of social uses and place-based filtering. Like, broadcasting local tweeters for recommended restaurants nearby, or publicly announcing your location to anyone who fancies meeting up, or turning your phone to ‘silent’ in certain areas, or finding people tweeting from the same cafe as you. That kind of thing. I quite like this idea, and I was very interested in this guy’s experiment with the ‘location-aware lifestyle’.

My plan: Load every cool and interesting location-aware program I could find onto my iPhone and use them as often as possible. For a few weeks, whenever I arrived at a new place, I would announce it through multiple social geoapps. When going for a run, bike ride, or drive, I would record my trajectory and publish it online. I would let digital applications help me decide where to work, play, and eat. And I would seek out new people based on nothing but their proximity to me at any given moment. I would be totally open, exposing my location to the world just to see where it took me. 

He immediately hits the barrier of other people not liking it. His wife, for example, wasn’t keen on his broadcasting when he was out of town and she’d therefore be alone at their – also publicly-available – address.


I suspect this might be the tech issue that breaks my generation from the next. The ‘oh, that’s going a bit far’ scenario. I know lots of people who still get antsy about information I give away when blogging, for crying out loud, let alone Twitter or Facebook albums. This might push them into This-Is-Against-The-Way-Of-Things terrority.

The article concentrates on the negatives, but seems positive about the future possibilities. At minimum, it’ll evolve a whole new field of etiquette. But it’s not ridiculous to think it might inspire new privacy laws. too. An embarrassing facebook photo is one thing, but location-data affects other people much more significantly.

And this isn’t a horizon-technology – it’s here now. As the article points out, it’s already theoretically possible to walk past a Starbucks and have ‘it’ SMS you a 50%-off voucher. If I had an iPhone, I’d certainly have all this stuff enabled, just to see what happened.

Personally, I’ve never been much for privacy, and at the moment I don’t have any problem with people knowing where I am. Rationally, I tend to view People-Will-Do-Unpleasant-Things as paranoid, and akin to the many people I know who won’t leave sat-nav rings on their car windows, just in case

That said, I haven’t – afaik – geotagged my flat. Because I in fact am irrationally paranoid some nutter might take offence to something on my blog and come find me. I tend to think this is ridiculous – it happens, but not with enough frequency that I need take notice – but I’ve still erred on the side of what-if. I don’t know which way I’ll swing on this one. Similarly, what if a Significant Other took exception? I don’t know.

Presumably, there’d be ways to smear yourself out. You’ll be able to, say, specify a certain 500m radius within which you can’t be pinpointed. But the evolution will undoubtedly be bumpy.  It should be fun, though. I’m looking forward to it.