• January 31, 2011
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Where You At?

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Someday, in my rapidly approaching senility, I will lament that kids today have no sense of what we used to call privacy. I could lament that now actually—our lives are open books, complete with pop-up pictures.

Recently I was watching infoMania (it’s on Al Gore’s Current TV, so you can be forgiven for not knowing about it), and a segment came on about one of the Kardashian women. (I don’t know which one, nor do I much care; the first thing I think of when I hear the name is the villains from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.) She was filmed in the car with her man, talking about who should run into the pharmacy to buy a certain personal product. They were arguing over who should go in, because she didn’t want to be recognized while buying said product.

That’s fine, except the conversation was filmed, and later commented on by said Kardashian, for her TV show. This made it to broadcast TV. So it’s OK for millions of people to know what personal products you put where, but not the people in your neighborhood?

Not only have services emerged to cater to our belief that our thoughts matter and we’re the center of the universe, but we’ve also got some that broadcast our whereabouts, too. Ms. Kardashian may well have been posting to Foursquare, Facebook Places, or Google Earth for all I know, about where she was going and what she was buying. And a large number of people would be excited to see the update.
Back when CB (citizens’ band) radio was the social network of the masses (look it up, kids), nobody knew where you were without asking: “What’s your 20?” They would use a code simply because it was cool to do so. (Your 20 meant your 10-20, which some trucker decided meant “location.” The curious can learn about this and other 10-codes at http://www.wearecb.com/support/tencodes.htm or by watching Smokey and the Bandit.) Today, the info comes right to us using location-based services (LBS).

Felons on work-release programs and some ex-cons on probation must wear tracking cuffs on their ankles so that the police know their whereabouts; it’s regarded as an imposition and a punishment. When a city or state talks about putting red light cameras in the traffic signals or safety monitors on street corners, the privacy lobbyists go berserk. With the advent of LBS—and especially if our mobile devices get smart enough to handle the updates for us if we’re too busy—I figure they’ll just throw up their hands in defeat.

“We tried to keep Big Brother from looking over your shoulder,” they’ll say. “Why are you giving him your GPS coordinates and itinerary?”
The nature of social media lends itself to integration, so we can’t even avoid the LBS updates of our friends. Posts abound in our social space about who just checked in where, who’s the “mayor” of what—everything we need to know except why. As in, why do I care? If you go someplace, there are two possibilities for me. Either I am not there and am likely doing something else so I can’t join you, or I am there so I don’t need to be notified via social network—I can see you.

Oh, and the second I get multiple LBS updates from one person because he is using more than one service, I am un-following his butt.

Marshall Lager is the managing principal of Third Idea Consulting, writing to you from an undisclosed location for national security reasons (as far as you know). Contact him at marshall@3rd-idea.com or via www.twitter.com/Lager.

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