Two new questions arise, courtesy of the latest advancement in cellphone technology: Do you want your friends, family, or colleagues to know where you are at any given time? And do you want to know where they are?
Obvious benefits come to mind. With new services called Loopt and Buddy Beacon that take advantage of the Global Positioning System chips embedded in many cellphones, parents can track the whereabouts of their phone-toting children. And for teens, who are fond of sharing their comings and goings on the Internet, such services are a natural next step. Sam Altman, the 22-year-old co-founder of Loopt Inc., said he came up with the idea in early 2005 when he walked out of a lecture hall at Stanford University. “Two hundred students all pulled out the cellphones, called someone and said, ‘Where are you?”’ he said. “People want to connect.”
But such services point to a new truth of modern life: If GPS made it harder to get lost, new cellphone services are now making it harder to hide. “There are massive changes going on in society, particularly among young people who feel comfortable sharing information in a digital society,” said Kevin Bankston, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation based in San Francisco. But the practical applications outweigh the worries for some converts. Kyna Fong, a 24-year-old Stanford University graduate student, uses Loopt, offered by Sprint Nextel Corp. For $2.99 (Rs119) a month, she can see the location of friends who also have the service. Fong can control whom she shares the service with, and if at any point she wants privacy, Fong can block access. Consumers can turn off their service, making them invisible to people in their social-mapping network. Still, the GPS service embedded in the phone means that your whereabouts are not a complete mystery.©2007/THE NEW YORK TIMES