GPS is a marvellous invention. It let’s you know exactly where you are, it is the input to applications that can guide you to the exact spot you want to.
It is also a way someone else can know where you are, and even though it seems just science fiction it can be used to subliminally suggest your brain where you have to go.
Of course, we need to have control of our information, we need our privacy and be our master in what we want to disclose. In principle this is quite straightforward. In practice it can get fuzzy.
What about renting a car in the US and discovering that they have installed a black box they use to check your whereabouts, if you over speed, take the car into dangerous areas…You will be paying a surcharge at the end of the rent if you have done any wrongdoing. Let’s hope that information is not made public nor it can be hacked.
Now some companies are developing apps for cell phones to detect your whereabouts and behaviour. Geopresent, as an example, is offering a service to monitor the “motion” state of a cell phone in addition to its position and whereabouts, http://www.geopresent.ca/life-assist-monitoring-and-protection.html . It can be used for security and safety purposes. If it is detected that the cell phone is laying still at a time it should be showing some movements something wrong may be happening and that may require further investigation.
Cell phones have movement sensors, they can detect surrounding sounds and an application can mix the various inputs, along with the GPS, to create a likely overview of where you are and what you are doing.
This is being exploited by an application created by Intel researchers to let you know your friends what you are doing in real time. Facebook and Twitter are used by millions to do just that but they require an explicit action on your part to declare yourself at that particular time.
Intel researchers Wendy March and Kieran Del Pasqua created a shadow avatar that picks up the information gathered by the cell phones and behaves to reflect that situation. Your friends can see in real time your avatar listening to music as it is walking in a crowded space or sitting in a car or doing some web surfing.
Your friends can look at a screenshot showing all their friends avatars and get a glimpse on their activity, then zoom on one to get more information.
This does not require any action on your side, apart from enabling them to view you. The apps in your phone picks up the information that your phone can detect, process it and sent it to your avatar in the web who hence behaves accordingly. Whoever has access to your avatar can see it.
I wonder if this is something I would really like to have. Clearly, I can always switch it off but at the same time switching it off it is sending a message like “I am doing something I do not want you to know about” and that’s private information as well.
So, in my case I am not a likely user of this service. On the other hand I wonder how other people may look at this kind of service…