The Location-based Context Aware Data Privacy Black Hole

I’ve written before about mobile application privacy over-reach. Now there seems to be a whole genre of mobile applications that want *all* of your personal data in order to ‘help’ you through your day. You know, you are right, I think the number one thing that people want is someone (or something) to tell them what they should be doing all day and all night long. No, not really.

One of these apps that has been around a while is reqall’s Rover. As is typical of the genre, it wants to suck in your contact info, keep fine grained GPS trails of your movements, harvest your info from social media sites like Facebook and twitter, etc. About the only useful feature I found that it provided was traffic conditions for commuting (but you can easily get that from any number of sites). One of the most annoying ‘helpful’ features it provided was trolling through the phone call logs an send alerts that I should call personX because I haven’t talked to them in a while. More often than not it was a number for AAA roadside assistance or some such thing that I wouldn’t have a need to call often.

Friday is another app that a co-worker pointed out to me. A quick visit to their web site had me scratching my head as to why I would ever want to run this app. This app sucks *all* of the information off of your phone into ‘the cloud’ and does so on a continuous basis throughout the day. It does this so it can ‘help you remember’ what you were doing at a particular moment. Right, or use all of that information to sell to marketing types or know when to rob you.

Saga is the latest of these apps I have seen. Whoo, I can see a list of places I have been during the week (like I couldn’t do that with Google Latitude). Same tired ‘check in’ gambit – pooh and I get to earn ‘experience points’ for doing it. And restaurant recommendations based on what I always do! (as if I couldn’t figure that out on my own. Same claims, same huge privacy issues. Do I really want some third party tracking my every move at all, let alone for the claimed ‘benefits’ to me?

Will Google Now be the one that gets this right? Privacy issues remain, but in many cases they probably have this information already so the issue of providing it to yet another third party is somewhat minimized. Also, some of the touted features don’t make a lot of practical sense, like translation and currency. Works great if you have an unlocked phone AND can get roaming data at a less than rapacious rate; otherwise ‘benefits’ that won’t see a lot of use. And then there is the fact that Google Now is only available on the very newest version of the Android OS that is on very, very few devices in the wild.

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