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Home » News, Opinion

Do You Care About Privacy?

Submitted by on Tuesday, 24 November 200920 Comments

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 ‘’ address doesn’t exists. I’m sure it’s an oversight and the company will correct it (I have asked).

What are you sharing?

What are you sharing?

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.

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  • Tweets that mention Augmented Reality Privacy - Do You Care? | Augmented Planet -- said:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Augmented Planet and Kit Macgillivray, Woontack Woo (우운택). Woontack Woo (우운택) said: RT @AugmentedPlanet: Do You Care About Privacy? – #AR #camar #yam [...]

  • Willy said:

    Great article Lester! Privacy becoming a major concern with all those Geotag Apps. There are some community online that try to address those issues. One of them:

  • uberVU - social comments said:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by AugmentedPlanet: Do You Care About Privacy? – #AR #AUGMENTEDREALITY…

  • Augmented Reality Privacy – Do You Care? | Augmented Planet :Mobilizy said:

    [...] Augmented Reality Privacy – Do You Care? | Augmented Planet November 26th, 2009 via [...]

  • Carter Cole said:

    i never thought about burglars going through people tweeting about vacation and looking for their houses… i made a post called bring it on stalkers where i use geolocation to post my position… im poor(so i got nothing to steal) and girlfriends always home with kids but this makes a good point if someone is tagging things with augmented reality then the criminals could just have their iphone as their burglary tool

  • hike said:

    And you JUST figured this out? The tubes are full of dummies!

  • Simon Dufour said:

    Interesting. Really. It’s great to see people concerned about privacy. Please note that I have said concerned, not obsessed.

    You see, it’s interesting to geo-tag a picture from your vacations, a picnic or from your last trek in the forest. However, when you take a picture of your new TV, your dog or from your kid playing in your backyard, geo-tagging is useless and dangerous. There’s not much harm in geo-tagging a photo of your house. I mean, it’s not a real secret anyway. Easily obtained and well.. relatively harmless.

    I don’t think that privacy is really the problem. The problem is that people do not share responsibly. Last week, I saw a disturbing exchange of facebook post of someone having couple problem. There was people insulting each other publicly, sharing all their problems with everyone. They do not realize that these things can be easily tracked by anybody – your boss, your friends, your coworkers, everyone. I even saw personalities reply to each others furiously in Twitter updates. All this is not healthy. People must learn to share more responsibly.

    The other thing I’d like to share is that we must not forget that security will also go up as technology progress. Alarm system will eventually become more and more advanced and customizable. Imagine if the police could have access to this information too. A computer could automatically generate a danger map on the most probable victim of burglary depending on who is at home and who is not. They could then deploy their patrol more precisely. It’s just an example, it might not be a good idea. It’s just a way for me to explain that, as technology progress, not only bad things will happen.

    Want to discuss?

  • Eric Gradman said:

    I created an augmented reality art piece called the Cloud Mirror that explores this very idea of privacy in augmented reality. It augments your image with your relationship status on Facebook.

  • NerdyRoom™ » Sicherheit in zweiten der Datenvernetzung said:
  • lesterm said:

    Simon I think you are right that people don’t take joint responsibility. If little auntie Dorris comes over for Christmas, takes pictures of you and the family then uploads all the pictures to her Facebook account you have lost control over those pictures and your privacy has gone out the window. My aunt has got a Facebook account and hasn’t quite manged the use of private messages, instead she writes on my wall. I reply back by sending her an email and her response comes back to my wall again. I have to be careful with what I say because it becomes public.

    I’m sure Tracy learnt something new about Facebook privacy.

    You have an interesting idea about home security. If your alarm system had access to the crime stats in you area and could tell you that there has been severalburglaries so you should set your alarm that would be very useful.

  • Simon Dufour said:

    I agree with you. I think people should be more informed on sharing responsibly. At that point, privacy itself becomes way less critical or.. well.. let’s say less dangerous.

  • Twitter 360 Augmented Reality iPhone Application | Augmented Planet said:

    [...] I had a rant about privacy the other day I should refer you to this post. Augmented reality and geotagging is fantastic combination when you are at an event and want to see [...]

  • H3g3m0n said:

    It will be even worse in the future:

    Imagine walking down the street with a small camera embedded in a pair of glasses (with a computer display also embedded in them so you have things like a virtual ‘holographic’ mobile phone, a full sized webbrowser floating in the air, etc… computers effectively stop being physical devices at that point. The camera is used to recognize where your hands are so you can operate the virtual devices) or even contact lenses.

    However some percentage of the population opts to run some daemon or app in the background, some computer vision software detects faces of the people they walk past, it uploads this to a database, pattern recognition software can mine this database for all the other photos of that person. If you are interested in someone you see, it can pull out every other picture that anyone else wearing the system has taken. It would be fairly easy to find out where someone lives, works, the routes they frequent, where they shop, etc… The software can just keep streaming pictures to the web so if you want to see who lives in the house you just have to watch the feeds of nearby GPS coordinates until someone running the spy software walks past the house at the same moment as the person is leaving or entering. (actually the feed watching could also be done by pattern recognition).

    Even if it’s outlawed, the database doesn’t have to be run by some specific company or entity. It can be hosted on the cloud in a distributed, anonymous, p2p manner.

  • Youth Unfriending The Separation Between Physical and Digital « Face Youth Lab said:

    [...] augmented reality apps there are concerns that releasing such a combination of information such as visual cues and location could invite unwanted attention. This discourse is however part of a larger ‘transparency versus personalization’ debate that [...]

  • Plague of Smiles said:

    Imagine this… imagine say, a secret society. Now there are good secret societies but there are also evil ones. Imagine a group of stalkers target a person for nefarious ends. They use augmented reality to “tag” this person’s home as the home of a child molester. This prompts several concerned citizens to do a little vigilante action and burn the person’s house down. Now imagine if the person accused of being the molester were 100% innocent and now his house has burned to the ground.

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  • Augmented Reality and Privacy | JetLib News said:

    [...] anonymous reader recommends a piece up at Augmented Planet that makes a couple of points about privacy in the realm of geotagging and augmented reality that haven’t been discussed much. First, once you geotag and upload, say, a photo to the Net [...]

  • Scott said:

    You’ve positioned this nicely. I think that with technologies like this, people do need to share more responsibility and understand the risks. Don’t geotag your kids, geotag your favorite vacation spots or your favorite diner, etc. As with anything, the technology can be very useful if you use it correctly and for how it was (or should be) intended.

  • Privacy Norms in the Bio-Digital World | Technology, Thoughts, and Trinkets said:

    [...] Whereas IP-based geotagging, even when combined with other data sources, is likely to be ambigious, how should we understand the ‘tagging’ of people and things using AR technologies? Juniper Networks has identified AR as a ‘boom’ technology, but in the absence of regulatory guidelines we can expect the next few years to be as ‘Wild West’ as the ‘net was in its earliest public days. Accompanying this lack of regulatory oversight is a very real question of privacy with AR; what happens when another person geotags your location, or the location of your (expensive) private property without asking for your consent? What when they add to your own tag’s meta-information to expand it to what you consider &#8216…? [...]

  • Being wired can unknowingly open oneself to identity & physical theft | said:

    [...] of networking & social services (twitter, facebook, myspace, etc…) people can unknowingly provide a thief with all the info they need to steal a person blind. The internet never forgets. Something you mention casually may [...]

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