mashup*: Do You Want People To Know Where You Are?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I’m not long back from the mashup* event in London about location. I’ll probably blog more about it in the morning when I’m not so tired, but here are a couple of initial thoughts:

Mapping information to geographical locations really, really scares people. The vast majority of the debate today was about the privacy implications of being able to know where somebody is at any time, or tell where and when they were photographed or any of a variety of scenarios that were seen as intrusions.

In fact, the potential privacy issues seemed to worry some people so much that they it blinds people to the potential benefits of location-based information.

I suspect that core concern here is the move to map the indistinct virtual world onto the physical world. The net is a place of anonymity, at least in theory. People don’t mind others knowing that they’re online, because that gives them no information about where they are or, in some circumstances, the details of their identity. Once online presence gets mapped to geographic location, it becomes frightening.

But why? Are stalkers and the like so prevalent that this is a societally-challenging issues? Or are we all so devious in our private lives that others knowing where we are is problematic? It was revealing that nobody, bar one loyal soul, wanted their employer to be able to check their geographic location.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that the spread of technology like this is going to change what sort of information we consider private. It might change the way we conduct business and relationships – and it might remove one layer of lies we can tell. This is yet another example of technology developing faster than society can adapt…


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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.