Rethinking privacy with a mobile device

By Emilio Castellanos

We are entering times where mobile geolocation will change our concept of privacy. Whether we embrace it or become afraid of it and how it is regulated greatly depends on how we choose to use it or abuse it.

Privacy has become more elusive since the internet era. Personal information posted online on social sites along with information collected through webcam services, street cameras, records stored by financial companies, etc., is all susceptible to be intercepted by 3rd parties.

However privacy issues become even more critical when we consider the mobile device: it contains a chip which constantly broadcasts your whereabouts. This locator has been monitored by government agencies since 2005 (FCC's E911) and is now standard on all new mobile phone models. Some devices will emit a signal even while turned off.

Today this GPS location technology is within reach for anyone with access to services such as Buzz for mobile, Google Latitude and other similar applications. The eternal patent question about right-of-use vs. royalties translated into privacy issues vs. common knowledge can become the basis of argument.

New mobile GPS applications are bringing about radical social change that will force us to re-think privacy concerns and uses. Particularly around how much others know about ourselves and how willing we are to let other people know where we are or what we are doing at any given time.

For all the risks that geolocation brings there is also a positive side to this story. In the not so distant future, the day may come when everybody knows everyone's whereabouts and activities at any given moment. If this happens, we all will be accounted for and crime as we know it could cease to exist. With full disclosure people would virtually know all our neighbors.



Knowing who has access to your information and understanding how your location is broadcast is one of the keys to solving the puzzle:

1. Find out how to disable/enable your GPS locator.
2. Protect your personal information and assume the risks if you are willing to post online.
3. Use common sense when you choose to broadcast your location.
4. Learn how to create powerful passwords and protect your mobile device with one.
5. Keep track of your friends and followers and know who they are.
6. Do not do anything you would not want your friends, family or a perfect stranger to know about...

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