Where’s The Line With Location-Based Apps and Privacy?

tin-foil-hat.jpgLoic Le Meur wrote yesterday about My Tracks – an application for Android phones which uses your phone’s GPS chip to track your location in real-time. Along with location, you can use it to look back later at things like your elevation, distance and speed.

This isn’t the first app to offer this kind of functionality. Google Latitude offers auto-updating location features, and I’ve used a Garmin Forerunner 405 for a while to log my runs.

It seems that location-based apps like Foursquare are so ‘last week’ already. As Loic says, “why not just check in automatically if I accepted that the app does this for me”?

While it’s much easier to have an app that doesn’t need manually updating, the check-in system does offer its own benefits. One of the key ones is enhanced security.

There are likely times you just don’t want to broadcast your location. What’s more, you may also want to reduce the likelihood of some creepo finding out where you live because you forgot to turn the app off.

Setting my tin-foil hat aside, I think the reality is that this kind of feature will be fairly ubiquitous in a couple of years. Set that alongside the emergence of augmented reality applications, and we’re approaching a time when Minority Report-style advertising is a reality.

The question is will there eventually be a backlash to the erosion of personal privacy that this kind of application entails? Will concerns over this aspect prevent mainstream adoption of this kind of tool?

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.