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The Weirdness Of Location Apps

privacy-discovery-apps

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot…

A stack of years ago, a friend made the prediction that reporting our every movement would be the future of social media.

It’s bad enough we post photos on Facebook of the salad still uneaten, along with tweets @linking us to who we are with at that exact time but there are tons of location apps hitting the market meant to pinpoint our exacts of where, and to discover who’s around us. That’s weird. 

Utilized to the best advantage, location apps allow us to keep track of friends so we can join them when proximity and timing allow. But is that really the intent of those who boast their location? And what about  privacy concerns when others know where we are and when, in real time? Not to mention (therefore I’ll mention it anyway), safety concerns for our younger online population who utilize these applications more than anyone?

The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan and nonprofit information-gathering organization. Since early 2000, the Pew Internet Division has been tracking trends and issues associated with the impact of the Internet in our private lives and professions.

Occasionally they focus on teenagers.

The Pew Internet Division’s latest report, Teens, Social Media, and Privacy, indicates teens are becoming even bolder about sharing information than they have in the past. Ninety-one percent of teenage technology-users post a photo of themselves, 71 percent share the name of their school, 71 percent list the name of their town, and more than half link their email address to their online profile.

At the same time, teenagers maintain faith that they are able to manage their privacy settings to a comfortable degree. But are they?

Take Highlight. Please. It’s one of the latest most successful entries in the location and discovery application market. Launched in 2012 and downloaded for free, it nestles in your smart phone and scans the world around you for other Highlight users. When standing next to someone with Highlight, their profile will appear on your phone, including their name, photos, mutual friends, and anything else they have chosen to share. If your friends are in proximity, Highlight will notify you. If someone you don’t know wants to meet you, Highlight will send you their information. Weird!

The founder of Highlight believes the social benefits of applications such as his far outweigh privacy concerns, which are managed through settings allowing you to limit who can view your profile, and by featuring “off the grid” moments in situations when you don’t want to be tracked.

But even when you remove the sinister ways these applications could be used, it’s still weird. In days of old, if we wanted to meet the person standing next to us we could say hello. Now we can learn their name and their interests and their friends —without ever looking up from our phone screen.

What? Is it me?

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