Location Based Services & privacy

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

FourSquare Logo

Although I was tempted to write a “War and Peace” article on the issues of privacy surrounding Location Based Services, I won’t.  Last week a website was set up called Please Rob Me, which tries to show the risk of providing too much information on the Internet, which could lead to impacts in the real world; the point the website is making is that by providing information as to where your home is, and the fact you aren’t there, could increase your risk of being robbed.  Now, although it’s unlikely a robber is sitting watching your FourSquare / Brightkite / Google Latitude check-ins, the risk still exists.

So, what can be done about it?  Well, first of all, it’s well worth reading these articles (here from FourSquare, and here from Brightkite), but in essence, here are some key thoughts:

  • When you check-in, think carefully about the settings you use, and whether you want (or need) the world to know about you are at this location (especially if the location is your home).
  • Think about whether it’s wise to then have this information passed over to Facebook and/or Twitter.  Whereas FourSquare and Brightkite especially offer privacy controls, once you publish the information and location on Twitter (and increasingly Facebook with their new privacy settings), it’s available for anyone and everyone to see and search for.  Oh, and a lot of people are getting fed up with Twitter streams filling up with FourSquare check-ins, so it’s wise to turn this broadcasting off, if only to not annoy your friends.
  • Don’t forget other services, such as Plazes, Dopplr, TripIt and Upcoming also reveal where you are going to be in the future, which you may want to think twice about too; although some, like TripIt, allow you to set some trips as private so they won’t display in public information until you change that per-trip setting.
  • If you are using Fire Eagle to broker your location information (and it’s a very useful tool in this respect), again, remember it has the ability to control whether applications / websites can read and/or write your location information, and if reading it, what level of accuracy you give them access to.
  • As Brightkite mention, if you realise afterwards it might not have been a wise move, look for a delete option to remove the information.

If you look at my profiles on these services (and others like it, let’s not forget this problem isn’t new, it’s just FourSquare and Brightkite are getting more and more users), you’ll often find the I don’t broadcast any location unless it’s to friends, and even then, I may not reveal all the information; on Google Latitude for example, I can set some people to only getting city-level location information, so instead of being able to precisely pinpoint me on a map, they simply get a rough location; this is a useful feature for people you may speak to online occasionally, but don’t have enough information to be able to implicitly trust them (note: this isn’t about not trusting them at all, in my opinion it’s about whether you would tell them your whole life history warts’n’all).

As a passing comment, the latest version of Gravity, v1.30 (6350), includes support for FourSquare, as well as offering geo-location facilities; for S60 5th Edition and S60 3rd Edition FP2 devices (Nokia E72 etc.), this can be either cell ID location information, WiFi positioning information, or GPS information, whereas for S60 3rd Edition FP1 devices, it’s currently only cell ID and WiFi positioning (due to needing to get each version of the app through the long Symbian Signed process to allow access to the GPS information on an FP1 device).  If you are not a FourSquare fan, we’ve recently covered the S60 5th Edition Brightkite client (see here) that could be used instead.

So, although you’ll find I have accounts on most of the location based social networking services (Plazes, FourSquare, Brightkite, Google Latitude, TripIt, Dopplr, Upcoming), you’ll often find I’m (as FourSquare nicely phrase it) “Off the Grid”, or only visible if we’re already friends, and equally, although I have the ability to provide geo-location information on my tweets, I rarely do, as (in my opinion) it’s often not relevant where the tweet was actually written.

Also, you’re more likely to find me using location based services that have a range of privacy options, in the way that Brightkite used to (unless I’m mistaken this isn’t possible now) and Google Latitude still does; allowing not just control over who can access the information, but how accurately they can access it.


Nokia announce their move into laptops

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Nokia Booklet 3G

This is the new Nokia Booklet 3G, a small form factor laptop (similar to many other devices, like the Vodafone netbook / Dell Mini units).  This, however, as well as featuring what appears to be a Windows OS, will also include some special features.  Firstly, like some other units, it will have 3G capabilities built in, possibly via a hot-swappable SIM card slot (allowing you to change or remove the SIM with the machine booted up).  It will also have A-GPS facilities for location based services.  Now, let’s remember that other devices, such as the Dell Mini 9 have similar capabilities, so this isn’t yet a unique device.

It will though, ship will access to a number of the Ovi Services, which will make a difference, including Ovi Maps (device widget), Nokia Music Store (including music streaming), Ovi Files (cloud based file storage), and Ovi Suite, allowing syncing with your mobile.

The spec, what little is currently known, looks good on paper: 10″ glass fronted screen, 3G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 120GB Hard Disk, HDMI port, integrated SD card reader, stereo speakers.

If you want to know more about this device, head over to All About Symbian.  More information is likely to be revealed by Nokia next week at their Nokia World event, where we expect a number of the phones we’ve covered recently to be announced as well.


Brightkite update iPhone app

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Brightkite have updated their iPhone client to v1.1; the new featutes include:

  • Ability to sign up through the app
  • Larger radius options on Nearby Stream
  • Lots of new settings
  • Friend discovery via Address Book
  • Invite users using email or phone number
  • Ability to join users
  • View more information on friend requests
  • More control over place snapping
  • Have the app open from SMS notification URLs
  • Simplified “I am” screen, with facility to dismiss location and manually select another
  • Check in from place screens
  • Lots of bug fixes, performance improvements and tweaks

This new version is already live in the iTunes App Store.


GyPSii supports the Nokia 5800

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

GyPSii, one of a growing number of Geolocation based Social Networking sites, have announced that they are the first to support the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, and other S60 5th Edition phones, such as the forthcoming Nokia N97.

“GyPSii is ideally placed as the leading innovative application that incorporates social networking and communities with location-aware features – in particular, the ability to provide a location and social graph context to any media captured on the device. GyPSii’s ability to deliver a touch screen experience in one integrated application is key to the Nokia Touch device customer,” said Jure Sustersic, Business Development Manager at Forum Nokia EMEA.

Even better, the GyPSii client for the 5800 will be available direct from Nokia via their Download service, although no 5800 apps are available yet.  In the meantime, you can download their existing client direct from GyPSii here (with options for Symbian S60 3rd Edition, BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows Mobile).


Google offering voice and location based searches

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Although only available for the iPhone / iPod Touch right now, we suspect these functions will filter out to their other mobile applications in time…

The Google Mobile App for the iPhone has been updated to support two new features.  Firstly, it now supports searching by voice; you just hold the phone to your ear, say what you are looking for, and it will search for you.  You don’t even need to press a particular key to start the search process.

Also, they’ve added Search with My Location for both devices, which will provide a location based specific response to the search.  Obviously for this to work you need to have Location Services enabled on the device, and allow Google Mobile App to be able to access it.

More information direct from Google here, although it should be pointed out it the voice search works best with US accents right now.


Nokia buys Plazes

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008


Nokia has bought Plazes, a location based activity social networking site. It’s believed that Plazes will eventually become part of the Ovi strategy, and may even get absorbed into Nokia Maps (Nokia Maps is mainly developed by Nokia Location Service, which is the new name for Gate5, who are based in Berlin alongside Plazes’ development team). Plazes itself today is not very mobile friendly (no m.plazes.com, no mobile specific browser support, no windows mobile / symbian clients, although SMS is supported and there is an iPhone client due soon), so it will be interesting to see how quickly Nokia get those things changed. There is a Nokia Internet Tablet client, although we couldn’t even persuade it to login to plazes, let alone interact with the site.

Given Google’s Android phone OS is likely to be including a whole range of Location Based Services from day one when it ships later this year / early next year, if Nokia want to compete they will need to get a Symbian client created quickly, integrate the Plazes solution into their whole suite of online websites, and get new firmwares out for existing phones as well as their new phones (after all, if you can upgrade your current phone to support all the same features as a Google phone, the need to replace your Nokia with a non-Nokia phone will diminish, and keeping their current customers must be key to Nokia over the next few months as Google and Apple release “must have” phones).



Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

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3 SkypePhone

Pocket Surfer 2

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3 USB Modem

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LG KF600

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Android Application: Locale

Android Application: My Tracks

3 Mobile Wi-Fi unit (3UK MiFi)

IDAPT I3 Charging Station

INQ Mini 3G – First Looks & Full Review

LG Arena

LG GD900 Crystal

LG Chocolate BL40 – First Looks & Final Review

LG SL9000 LED-Backlit LCD TV

Novatel Intelligent Mobile Wireless Hotspot 2352 (MiFi) – First Looks

orbitsound T3 Speaker

Sony Ericsson T715

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Android Application: Tasker

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Dell Streak (Quick Hands On)

HTC Hero

INQ Chat 3G

Location Based Services & Privacy

Nokia Booklet 3G

Novatel Intelligent Mobile Wireless Hotspot 2352 (MiFi) – Update & Full Review (Coming Soon)

Pibbix Voicemail

SanDisk Mobile MicroSDHC Memory Card

Symbian Application: Maps Booster

Symbian Application: Socially

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Humax HDR-Fox T2