To be honest, that’s not entirely true. I don’t mind being followed if I can control who does the following and when and for what purpose. When Amazon and Google and online advertisers follow my whereabouts while I browse the interwebs then I’m not so happy. Yet, my iPhone is packed with applications that know my location while I’m moving about so there’s that option that doesn’t garner as much of a complaint.
Google introduced a number of new and useful features the past year to Maps, and a few of them are alright by me, including the Popular Times function in Search and Maps which tells you how crowded some locations– bars, shops, cafes, Starbucks, etc.– can be be at any given moment. Apple doesn’t have anything like that in Maps and the same features don’t work on Google Maps for iPhone.
That kind of tracking can be good for people, especially when you’re in a hurry and don’t want to stand in line to get a Starbucks fix. We see something similar based on our location while driving, whereby both Google Maps and Apple Maps can display traffic information. To be able to display such useful driving information both apps need data and that data comes by way of following users and noting their whereabouts at any given moment.
As much as I want my privacy and demand my security from the powers that be, there are times when I’m willing to give it up for a little old fashioned convenience.
Google’s tracking mechanisms differentiate from Apple’s iPhone efforts by the sheer number of Android smartphones on the market. The idea here is that more data makes for more accurate information. If your iPhone is the only one in the neighborhood how will Apple be able to secure sufficient data to show you traffic conditions?
The holiday shopping season is here and that means travel, shopping, waiting in lines, and joining a slugfest or two to get the best deals. Google Maps and the Popular Times feature may go a bit haywire during Black Friday but you can see the value in being able to determine which crowds are worth navigating and where a nearby Starbucks can serve you without an hour wait.
Another issue that worries me about this disparity of the customer base– Google’s Android vs. Apple’s iPhone– is how much data is needed and can be gathered to create a useful feature? Apple is on the side of privacy and security more than Google, but does Apple have enough customers to ensure sufficient data to make such tracking applications truly useful? Google does. Does Apple?
What scares me about Google and Android– other than exploding Samsung smartphones– is how much of the data gathered from my location becomes shareable with others. It’s one thing to aggregate a gazillion cars on a two-mile stretch of road to indicate traffic congestion, but it’s something else to capture my location, follow me as I travel, and make that data available to authorities whenever they choose.
I know that being followed helps give me useful information, but I don’t want to be followed too much, and I would like to be in charge of how much.