But in addition to being a music industry professional, I am, quite proudly, a social media professional. At this point, if you’re a social media professional that doesn’t pay attention to location based services, you’re sort of like Blockbuster in the world of Netflix: if you don’t plan on changing, your days are numbered.
With that in mind, I recently pulled a complete 180 on my attitude towards location based services.
The old me hated anything with “location” in the title. My attitude was “where I am is my business, and no one else’s.” Besides, LBS apps like Foursquare are based on the implicit (or perhaps the explicit) assumption that people actually care that you’re at target shopping for a new toothbrush. Trust me, we don’t.
Not wanting to be like Blockbuster (to continue with my previous analogy) I decided to drink the punch and dive on in to the sea of location based services. Before long, a sinister feeling began crawling all over me. And then, all at once, I knew what had happened; I had realized something shocking about myself – I kind of enjoy location based services.
There. I said it.
And I meant it, too. I work in arguably the greatest city in the world – New York City. When I was in my home town of Mount Kisco – a wonderful town in a suburb of New York City – I always knew where to find what. Same with my college town of Binghamton, NY. Believe me, I can not emphasize enough the extent to which both locations are near and dear to my heart, they’re just nowhere near the size or complexity of a place like NYC.
My favorite part of life (and least favorite, but I digress) is other people. Location based services allow you to say “check out this awesome place,” or “hey, who’s around?” quickly and easily in a world where there’s always something new to discover, and someone new to reunite with. I’m a total sucker for an adventure, and with LBS everyone can share the adventure.
I was hooked.
I know, I used to proudly boast “I believe in privacy!” But that was a linguistic error on my part. You can’t “believe” in a noun that we all already know exists. I guess I could believe in a rock, or a chair, but that doesn’t really mean anything.
As I think about it now, what I believe in today really is what I believed in all along – I believe in is the right to privacy.
The right to go off the grid. To be left alone. To be able to hit up my local Target without everyone who lives near said Target messaging me to say “heard you were in the neighborhood!” As much as I love other people, I also have my moments when I need some time alone, even if it’s just for a Target run.
What can I say, I’m a complicated guy.
What I’m asking for, however, is not so complicated. In fact, what I really want is something I believe should be the inalienable right of every citizen of the new, truly digital age that we all live in — the right to be a public person when I want to be a public person, and the right to be a private person when I want to be left alone.
For those of you with some experience in the minefield that is the topic of privacy, you know why that simple vision is actually so very complicated — it’s a problem of trust.
Did you know that when you sign up for Loopt, you essentially consent to the company that owns Loopt always knowing where you are?
I can’t imagine I’m alone in thinking that’s very, very creepy.
Will Loopt share this information with the government? Will the government combine that information with our revealed preferences from Facebook to create geo-located personality profiles of every American citizen? Will the government then use that information, combined with Google’s email-monitoring robots (which they’ve subpoenaed by now) to monitor its citizens like a flock of birds? Will that level of control ultimately lead to a systematic oppression so complete we won’t even notice it’s happened until it’s too late?
But technically, they probably could.
What I have come to realize as of late is that fear of of a good thing being ruined is no reason to run from that good thing.
It’s a great reason to protect that good thing.
My fear of having my privacy (or other personal information) stolen should not be permitted to dissuade my adoption of the otherwise exciting and world-changing products and services these cutting edge tech companies are offering us. Therefore, I am hereby shifting my hatred away from location based services in general, and instead focusing my frustration on the concept that we still live in a world where we don’t really believe our privacy is safe.
The world I envision is one where you can follow, friend, and link with the public me, and you can leave the private me the hell alone. In the world I envision, I can stop being afraid of the fact that google scans all of my gmail emails, that facebook knows all of my interests and hobbies, that twitter knows every dumb 140 character thought I’ve had for the past couple years, because I know that real, fortified systems are in place to make sure my private information is as private as I want it to be. Only then will we truly be safe to enjoy what these amazing services have to offer us.
Can we make that world a reality? To quote Mr. Sellers, I happen to believe that “it is not only possible…it is essential.”