News Column

Your Apps Are Following You

July 31, 2013

Teresa Dapp, dpa


Keeping the world apprised of one's whereabouts no longer even requires the tedious task of posting information on Twitter or Facebook. A simple login with one of the newer locator services can let the world know which theatre or restaurant you are frequenting.

But is this a practical network or a potential privacy disaster? And is the world ready for a society where people check in every time they want the world to know they're in the bar, hardware store or train station?

Services like Foursquare make this tracking possible. Members use it to check in and say where they are. They can also use it to leave comments on sites, share photos, tips and warnings.

The company claims to have more than 30 million members, with millions of position reports coming from them every day.

Facebook also added a similar function in 2011, giving people the chance to share their whereabouts online. But this trend comes just as more and more people are growing nervous about the ability of intelligence agencies to find out about how people are living their lives.

That's because checking in with these sites is no longer just about sharing where you are physically. People can also "check in" to report about discovering a new kind of beer (Untappd), enjoying a cocktail (iSwig) or just to let the world know they're watching The Simpsons.

Other services like Miso or GetGlue share with the world if you've seen the latest episode of Game of Thrones, while SoundTracking lets the world know what music you're playing at home.

Companies encourage people to provide all this information with freebies and honours.

People who check in at least 50 times with Foursquare become known as superstars. Those who go to the gym regularly get nicknamed Gym Rat. And the people who most routinely check in with a certain locale become known as its mayor.

Data security advocates are not necessarily on board with all this sharing.

"I really warn about this, because I don't know who sees this information," says Thomas Spaeing of the Professional Association of Data Security Advocates, a group that aids privacy advocates.

Spaeing says users need to think about the fact that information they share will be processed and used for advertising. "If I eat a burger, might I be interested in blood pressure tablets?" he notes.

Industry magazine AdAge has reported that these services are doing just that. Someone using such a service, upon checking in at a bar, might get a drink recommended to him by a drinks producer.

But blogger Daniel Rehn sees positives, noting that all the comments work together to form a kind of review. He says tips from other Foursquare members has meant lots of good advice and the ability to avoid potential problems.

Going to extremes, German journalist and blogger Mario Sixtus has set up a special website that constantly shows where he is. The project is "a kind of answer to all the hysteria and the panic that comes up in Germany whenever a new technology is revealed by the media."

He could turn off the location finder, he notes, but says it's been a positive so far, with plenty of friends keeping an eye on his travels so they can spontaneously meet up with him when he is out.

Where to go - [Information about Foursquare]( - [Information on Facebook Places]( - [Untappd]( - [Miso]( - [GetGlue]( - [SoundTracking]( - [AdAge on Foursquare advertising]( - [Where is Sixtus project](

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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