As social media has grown to be such an enormous part of our lives, it is questionable how much more it can possibly grow. I am beginning to wonder how much more of our personal lives and intimate thoughts we will be willing to share with one another, and, perhaps more intriguingly, with strangers who happen to come upon our web pages. Something that seems to be becoming some-what of a trend is the concept of “checking in” places. Foursquare is a social media site devoted solely to checking in where one is at any given time. There are also applications on both Twitter and Facebook where the user can “check in” where they are posting from.
Personally, I never quite understood the hype concerning checking in everywhere I go, I guess partly because I value my independence and have ever since I was considered “adult” enough to be able to go where I wanted whenever I wanted without having to answer to a higher authority. I have many friends who do not share my view, however. I know multiple people who check in everywhere they go and are actually quite obsessive about keeping a record of their check ins. I even have one friend who goes to the extreme of checking in on the highway, just so he can be “Mayor” of Interstate 287 (I continually remind him that it’s technically illegal to be text messaging and driving, but he is adamant about maintaining his title). I just do not see the point in being more or less traceable at all times; however, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
The idea of tracking apps has always intrigued me, so I decided to read up on the topic. I came across an article about a “girl tracker” app on Foursquare being banned for its “inappropriate” intent. Upon first read, I undoubtedly thought that an app that allows people’s locations to be revealed according to their Foursquare, Facebook, etc. usage is a violation of their privacy. The more I ponder the issue, however, the more I begin to wonder how much of a violation using this information technically is. If someone is putting information regarding his/her whereabouts on the world wide web, can they really be upset if someone he/she does not intend to see it happens to come across it? While I am firm in my belief that a “girl tracker” app is a cheap attempt to find attractive people, I am unsure as to how I feel about the rights of the people being tracked.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, tracking apps have been used in a positive way. In this video, for example, an eight year old boy used a tracking app to find his stolen iPad by using just an app. He managed to pinpoint the exact building his device was in, using satellite imaging. His family called the local authorities who busted the thieves at a local hotel and found a stash of stolen electronics ($350,000 worth to be exact). A few years ago, this would not have been fathomable. There were no such thing as apps, let alone ones that could find your misplaced things. Only a short time ago, there was little to no hope at finding lost and/or stolen iPods, phones, computers, etc. There was no easy way of tracking these devices and the shoddy tracking systems that did exist were extremely expensive and not even guaranteed to work. When I bout my MacBook in 2009, the sales girl at the Apple store tried to sell me “LoJack” software in case my computer was stolen; however, I did not have the money or the desire to purchase it. Now, I am thankful that I did not spend the money on the LoJack, for there are apps that can do a better job for free!
Technology seems to be going in a direction that allows very little room for privacy. Some of this lack of privacy is inevitable, some of it by choice of the user, some not as voluntary. It is obvious that the more technologically dependent we become as a society, the more this will become a prevalent topic of discussion. It is interesting to see how much the idea of “internet tracking” has grown in just the past few years and it will be interesting to see to what heights it will soar.