Last week as the Isle of Man Steam Packet ferry approached Douglas harbour I “checked in” on Foursquare to a location called the “Sea Terminal”. I also uploaded a lovely picture of the watery reflections of the multicolour harbour lights. Beautiful it was.
Then as I got into the car to drive off the ferry I received a text message telling me I had just run up £17.02 (ex VAT) on data roaming charges. Ooo! That was before I had even set foot on the Isle of Man. The notion that I might leave data roaming switched on for the week was out of the question.
I was fortunate in having free WiFi where I was staying. I did however occasionally switch on roaming in order to check in at various Foursquare locations and am now proud to announce that I am Mayor of Peel Breakwater, Fenella Beach and The Grove.
Uhuh! So what do I hear? Well to some extent you are right. Foursquare is currently just a game. It may prove to have its uses but for now I am just having a play.
There are multiple issues here.
Firstly I want to be able to roam and not worry about the cost. The solution here is down to the mobile networks and the EU. Although in business I make money from selling mobile services in the long run I don’t believe the pricing is sustainable considering the behavioural changes in the mobile market.
Secondly is the point that I am choosing to publish my location to anyone that wants to see.
Whilst I was on holiday the hoohah over Apple and their gathering of location data hit the headlines. I can see both sides of the debate here.
On one hand there is potentially a massive and as yet nascent market for the information. There are even benefits to the user – finding a lost phone is one example.
On the other hand when I sign in on Foursquare I do so at locations of my choice. I have control. This control is manifested as opting not to check in at certain locations (actually when I was on holiday I also did this by switching roaming on and off as I needed it).
We the end users need to have total control over the location data provided by a mobile device. We need to be able to opt in if a device collects this data. This opt in process needs to be highly visible.
As a society we are still learning how to live in an open, internet based world. Even with an opt in I’m not sure that we really understand the implications. We are all still learning.
Government will also be interested. After all governments like control. They like to know where you are. Clearly we should fight this and we should certainly not let private corporations access the data without fully understanding the implications of doing so.