New smart phone app exciting and terrifying

24 Aug

Screenshot of a sample Glympse.

A new smart phone application, Glympse (for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows), is a location sharing software that goes farther than Foursquare or Facebook Places. Instead of simply checking into a location, with this app, you send another person permission to track your movement for a specified period of time (5 minutes to 4 hours).

Some people say this improves transparency – you can prove to someone you’re really stuck in traffic on your way to a business meeting. Or it could be a novelty, like sharing your travels with friends.

But I fear the temptation to abuse this app may outweigh the benefits of transparency.

When my parents were together, my father used to force my mother to account for every single minute in her day. She had to inform him when she was leaving the house, when she arrived at her destination, when she estimated she was halfway through her errand, when she was leaving her destination, and when she arrived home. He had the trips clocked to the minute. “It usually takes you six minutes to get to the grocery store, but you didn’t call for eight minutes. Where were you for the extra two??”

Yes, really that bad.

I don’t know what he thought she could be doing in those extra two minutes that was so horrendous. It was so much pressure that she’d call him when we hit traffic or an extra red light so he would know why the timing would be off.  And because both of my parents worked from home, they didn’t have anyone asking questions about why this was going on all day.

So my first thought when I heard about Glympse was, “Now controlling partners will be able to manipulate people into letting them see where they’re at, AT ALL TIMES.” I can’t even imagine what sort of lectures the family would have endured if my father had been able to track where we were at all times. I bet letting a Glympse expire and not sending a new invitation would just be a mess.

So while I see the value of Gympse as a tool for transparency, I also see it as a tool for control. New revelations in technology are very exciting, but this one has the potential to be terrifying.

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