Do You Care About Privacy?
When blogging I don’t like to follow the herd mentality and report the same news you can read everywhere else. However is well worth mentioning the report from Juniper that augmented reality is set to explode with the mobile augmented reality market set to gross $732 million by 2012. The report attributes this largely to the adoption of Android and iPhone devices and their respective application stores making it easy for consumers to find and buy applications. It’s big news with lots of links but if you haven’t stumbled upon the story yet you can read about it here.
The report goes to talk about privacy and how there is a potential issue with geotagging data and who owns that data. I must admit that I have changed my mind over the whole privacy issue.
Until recently I didn’t care about privacy, if I chose to geotag my location it’s because I want people to know where I am. I want an application where I can share my location with all my friends and let them track me in real-time. I’ll turn it off when I don’t want people to know were I am.
But what happens when another user geotags your location with information you don’t want to share?
I recently tested an augmented reality application and took a picture from my house and uploaded it to the applications server. I’m going to keep the application anonymous, but between me uploading to see the 3D animation and deleting the picture another user quite innocently found my picture and put some details there that I wouldn’t necessarily want to have associated with my home address. There was nothing malicious about the action, just an Innocent simple modification but the result is I now don’t own that data.
In this particular photo my personal blog has become associated with my home address. If in the future I blog that I am on holiday, my home address is geotagged with my my blog feed telling everyone I am away and the house is empty. Since the picture was taken outside my house it wouldn’t take a particularly bright burglar to find where I live. Yes there are lots of applications that enable you to geotag your location, twitter clients for example so it’s unfair to pick on a particular application. However with other applications it’s your responsibility to turn the sharing on or off, if another user tags you and shares data how do you get it removed?
I looked though the applications UI and there is no report content option (if there is it wasn’t obvious), so I looked through the companies website and eventually found an email address where you can email about privacy. I sent an email asking for the picture to be removed and was surprised that I received a bounce because the ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ address doesn’t exists. I’m sure it’s an oversight and the company will correct it (I have asked).
Why should you care about geotagging?
- If you geotag a picture with your new 50″ plasma TV in the background and upload it to the web, congratulations you have just told everyone where you live and what you have of value.
- The web has a long memory, geotag something today and in six months is still on the web. When you tweet from the beach in Barbados telling your friends you are away for 2 weeks that picture of your 50″ plasma will still be out there along with it’s location.
- It’s easy to track down someones home address if you have their real name
I know this is an extreme case, I’m not anti geotagging or a privacy freak that thinks Google StreeMaps should be banned or anything like that, but I do think privacy is a real issue.
It’s not a problem that is unique to augmented reality applications but considering the growth expected in the industry it needs to be addressed and users protected from sharing to much data. In the meantime it’s up to us to think before you share.