Three Things Matter in #Cyberspace: Location, Location, Location!

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This seemed like an appropriate subject to cover today, in light of Google's new privacy policies kicking-in in a few hours…

First off, I've never really understood the obsession some people have with disclosing trivial details about themselves. Of course, that opens a can of worms, doesn't it? One person's trivia is another person's 'absolutely-positively-need-to-know-this-very-minute!' piece of information, after all. Who am I to judge? Disclose what you want on Facebook. Leave GPS enabled 24-hours a day. Knock yourself out!

But…have you thought about who else is watching…and why? Twitter has inked a deal to sell two-years' history of your tweets; location included. What's so important about location, anyway?

Even I can see some value in disclosing your location, under certain circumstances. For example:

LIST A

  1. A minor who goes missing,
  2. The family pet runs away,
  3. A vehicle veers off the road and crashes into a tree in an isolated area, and the driver's unconscious or is trapped and can't reach their phone,
  4. A bunch of friends plan to get together and, rather than having to contact each other, they simply home in on the organizer's location.

I could go on, of course. And obviously, some of these items are critical, while others are simply convenient. The problem is, all kinds of other people have an interest in knowing your patterns:

LIST B

  1. Advertisers, so they can tailor-make their ads to bring you goods and services in your vicinity,
  2. Insurance providers,
  3. Law enforcement,
  4. The burgler who's waiting to break into your home,
  5. Your boss,
  6. That pesky process-server,
  7. Your significant other(s),
  8. Your stalker.

Lately, in my market, Flo from Progressive Insurance has been touting their Snapshot Discount (by the way, am I the only one who is – in California vernacular – totally freaked out by Flo?) It's a device you plug into your vehicle, and it monitors your driving habits, such as how hard you brake.

Of course, it also monitored how hard the driver from List A was braking just before s/he crashed into that tree. And now we have several people from List B who are interested; the insurance carrier (noted), law enforcement (obviously), the boss (if it's a company car), a significant other (because you were supposed to be on your way to the corner store, but you were 15 miles from home) and of course, that pesky process-server (when the tree sues a few months later).

This is an over-the-top example to make a point. I'm not picking on Progressive. I could just as easily cite Onstar, et al. Besides, many newer vehicles already monitor the driver's habits through their own black boxes.

You think you're giving out information for one purpose; but others are taking it for a completely different purpose. You can either act accordingly, or go with the Flo…

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