Friday, July 27, 2012

Pride or Privacy

How many friends do you have in Facebook? Who follows you on Twitter? Are you the mayor of a restaurant or a street? You see, it seems like one of the factors why we keep on wanting to increase our network is about the competition and pride. We just ignore privacy.

Receiving so much hits everyday are Facebook and Foursquare. While they are absolutely fun to use and provide bountiful of new information, it is overstated that these social networking sites are grinding the bones of our privacy and sucking the marrow of our personal data. Do we even care?

We check in at all the establishments we go to and we post minute by minute status updates on what we are doing. In just a snap of a finger, all our friends already know about our activities even if they’re not with us. Through the use of a single location-based application linked to several accounts, voila, hello stalker alert!

It’s scary. Seriously, our privacy today is no longer just within ourselves, but known by the whole wide world. While we have the choice to stop posting and sharing information about us, I believe the location-based applications also has to do something to make sure users know what they are exposing and when.

With the absence of proper controls, it’s easier to expose everything in one go – exactly what happens today. That’s why Anthony Wing Kosner, a contributor at, thinks that there should be a device-level function for managing private data on devices. This way, users have an option to filter their data before it reaches out to the world.

This function’s goal, as Kosner says, “is for users to be aware and in control of their mobile data in real time. These setting should be able to be applied app-by-app or globally at any time.”

He samples something as simple as a traffic light:
  • Green Light: Open for anything. App can use my public and private data to recommend context specific content to me based on my location and can broadcast my public data to make others, who have access to that data, aware of my location.
  • Yellow Light: Recommendations only. App can use my data to recommend context specific content to me based on my location but not broadcast my public data.
  • Red Light: App cannot access my data at all and cannot broadcast or record my location in any way.

As location-based applications continue to grow, I do hope that developers would consider having such features in order to save the lives of many people unaware of privacy issues. More often than not, users utilize apps based on what they only see rather than knowing what they’re actually doing. If they see such traffic light functions, then they’d be more careful on what they post depending on their chosen option.

This article is my 66th contribution to Manila Bulletin -- one of the Philippines' leading broadsheets -- published on April 16, 2012 (Monday) in the TechNews Section. You can view the PDF version here (lower left portion).


nice entry. although i think hindi responsibility ng developers to control what people post.

Yup, but at least have means to control it more. :)

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