GPS is playing a major part in our lives these days and it is a brilliant tool to protect us from crime, or at the very least recover things that have been stolen and catch the people who stole them. In the USA 113 mobiles are stolen EVERY MINUTE and most of them are sold overseas. In many areas including New Zealand, iPhones are as good as cash for someone wanting to make a quick drug buy.
Often we don’t realise how easy it is, despite the fact that we pretty much all have one or more GPS and location enabled devices on us. My iPhone and iPad both have SIM cards which are on all the time. If either of them went missing, I can trace them, create an audible tone to help me or police locate them and I can wipe them forever so they can’t be reused if someone stole them. We all use GPS apps of some sort, even if it is just the mapping application on our phone. We just don’t think about other ways that we can use this technology, or how the tech can be used to catch people who want to deprive us of our property and our safety.
The good news is that when people are smart and use an application like Find My iPhone, if not the thieves, then the receivers can be caught and often Police find a lot more than just your mobile. Let’s not make it easy for them.
If I went missing and I had my mobile on me, I could be found. Of course the Police would need a warrant to achieve that, but bottom line is they could. I also check in with Foursquare and other applications, so often my last known location can also be pinpointed.
If you follow my blog, you’ll know I love stories where GPS catches people in the act of, or following a crime. Here are a few recents.
In an article at LBS Zone, LeClairRyan attorney Kevin D. Pomfret says businesses should step forward to educate Congress and executive agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about the breadth and scope of location-based technologies, as well as the industry’s enormous potential.
This is something I have been saying for some time in past blogs. If we get Location Based Services applications right, they can enrich our lives in so many aspects. For example:
B2C Marketing. I would welcome personal location based marketing, based on my location, time and interests. Tell me if there is a hot deal on a new guitar pedal or music software as I drive past a music store on a Saturday. My girls would love to be told there is a 2 for 1 coupon on the latest summer fashion as they walk past a shop and their colors and sizes are in stock.
Health and safety. If one of my relatives is ill and needs medical help while on vacation, a blind or disabled person becomes disoriented, a diabetic travels and forgets their insulin, a car’s airbags deploy on a remote country road. These are all instances where consumers can be aided by LBS apps and help directed to them with ease.
Entertainment. Rugby World Cup year starts in less than 24 hours in New Zealand. Wouldn’t it be great if people can sign up to services that know where in the country they are, what they are interested in and can guide them to other activities based on time of day, interest and location? It could be golf, a cultural performance, Happy Hour, a concert or music festival, you could opt in before hand with your interests so if you are a ballet fan, you don’t get guided to a Christian Death Metal Grunge Fest.
The Road Trip. An application that provides car navigation, access to traffic information, entertainment, allows you to connect to your social networks, upload photos and blog, find ‘friends’ close to you and more.
We’ll see more of these in 2011, along with apps from Facebook, Google, Apple, Foursquare, Groupon, Twitter and hundreds of others. But what about the risks?
When you sign up for these applications, do you know who you are giving access to? Do you know whether you can opt out? Do you know of the service has the ability to delete your information if you decide to opt out. Often the services themselves don’t have that ability because Google and other services have cached it and even if they delete it, it still exists in other places.
It is a well know fact that criminal elements already use sites such as Facebook to identify people they want to commit crimes against. It might be that they want your car, your jewellery, your 65″ 3D TV, all the Christmas presents you displayed on your profile, or just to ransack your house. It may be nothing to do with you, as they say in the movies “Nothing Personal, this is business”.
You could follow this thread and think, this guy is anti LBS. Wrong, its how I make my living. I love it for what it can do for me and you. I just worry about how it can be used and believe it is incumbent on the developers to make the applications as safe as possible, to provide privacy controls and make sure people know how to use them. They might also want to consider liability insurance. I’ve heard of insurance claims by people who drove their cars into rivers because their nav told them to turn right. It won’t be long before there are claims from people saying that it is the fault of the social media location application, which indirectly told a car ring that their expensive sports car would be parked at the airport for 2 weeks.
The article that set me off on today’s blog was about educating politicians, something that needs to happen all over the world, because these applications go international very quickly. It is also necessary to educate the developers because they are focussed on what they want people to be able to do with their apps, not the inherent risks of uses they hadn’t considered. I often want my ‘friends’ to know where I am, but I don’t want people who are not my ‘friends’ to know where I am or where I am not.
This is not my first blog motivated by Pomfret. In September I wrote about Location Based Apps and Trust, prior to that Proximity Based Marketing and Trust, and a whole series of blogs around Who’s Looking at You on Facebook. In one of them I thought up a name at random, searched for someone with that name and found out a huge amount of information about the person. I found it to be very scary, what I could find out about that person. Add location to that mix now and it could become downright dangerous.
Of course the tables can be turned on crims as well as law enforcement agencies can use the same apps to find out what they are up to and where.
It’s full on election time, we have had the first debate. One thing that I thought was very cool was that TVNZ ran the debate in conjunction with YouTube. People were invited to record their questions for the leaders of the Labour and National parties on YouTube. The questions and responses, such as this one on Law and Order are also available to view on YouTube which means everyone has easy access to the parts of the
debate they are interested in. Great use of new technology and kudos to TV One.
And the NZ Herald has regular features talking about the different offerings on a topic, from each party. Today’s topics are law and order. I was telling my wife about the Act policy which I like.
Key things I like are that you serve the sentence you are given and 3 strikes and your out. I think this policy is based on the system that made many of the streets in New York safe. The first time I went to New York and wanted to go to the Cotton Club, I was told that taxi’s would take me there before dark, but they wouldn’t come back to pick me up because it was too dangerous in Harlem and taxi drivers were being murdered. In recent years the Zero Tolerence policy has made the area much safer.
They also said that if you are sentenced to 5 years in jail, you should serve 5 years. This is something that we have been asking for for years. The problem is that parties make all these statements, but they have very little credibility because they never seem to follow through. I am thinking that one possibility is using our political system to vote for a party like Act on the party vote to give them the legs to push through one of these policies.
Law and order is an election issue and in my humble opinion Helen Clark and the Labour Party want everybody’s vote and are saying they are against gangs and organized crime, but sympathizing with the reasons people join them. The National Party doesn’t seem to be much better. John Key is saying that he wants to lock up recidivist criminals and will build a new prison to house them. In my humble opinion young gang members who go to jail will add to their ‘mana’ (in simple terms Maori for honor or power) within the gang and will be heroes when they come out. They will be looked after ‘inside’ by their gang family and life won’t be too bad at all.
My wife said, “It’s all very well them saying these things when they want to vote for you, but after the election all the promises go out the window”, well actually she said something more colorful, but she’s pretty much on the mark. How many times have we been conned by politicians, voting for them on the basis of their election promises and then when they get in they have loads of great reasons why they couldn’t go through with it, usually blaming the outgoing parliament.
The addage is that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, a politician will always get in. It’s funny really that at election time we elect people that mostly we don’t trust to keep their promises and give them a mandate to run the biggest organisation, our whole country!