The installation of a GPS tracking device onto a suspect’s car constitutes a search — and therefore requires a warrant — the Supreme Court unanimously held on Monday morning. The justices, however, employed radically different rationales to come to their answer, leaving unsettled the question of how much protection one may expect from the Fourth Amendment in the digital age.
I’ve been following this case very closely; with the increasing reach of technology in our everyday lives, I’m very proud to see that the Supreme Court has overturned the absurd decision of the state courts that police investigators could esssentially ‘bug’ a person’s location via a GPS device, without their knowledge, or any legally sustainaible probable cause.
Had this ruling been upheld, we’d be one step closer to a Minority Report-like future, where our devices could at any moment be used against us, which would inevitably stifle both adoption of technology, and innovation across the industry.
It also affirms that the land’s highest Court is still more in-touch with technology than our own Representatives, a trend which I find both uplifting and terrifying. It’s clear to me, that the for-life appointment term reduces the power lobbyists and 3rd party monies can have on the legal system, which allows them not to be swayed by public opinion or extra-judicial concerns, like our Representatives clearly are. Hopefully some day soon, our own elected officials will be held to a similar standard.
Banjo has three main goals. One is to connect you to your social networking friends you didn’t know were nearby – for example, a friend from Facebook or Twitter, killing time at the airport, only a few gates away from you. It also wants to hep you find out what’s going on nearby by providing access to status updates and tweets from everyone around you, in a radius you specify. It also provides you with a way to virtually visit other locations, even when you’re far away, to see what’s going on with the people there.
This last feature seems custom-built for journalists, we think. Imagine being able to provide the app with the name of a location where bombs have just been dropped, an earthquake has occurred, or a plane has just crashed.
ReQall Rover, currently in private beta, is the newest software from the folks behind reQall, a natural language memo service spun off from MIT’s Media Lab, that helps manage personal information. And in under 90 seconds, it just told me some key data about my upcoming day. The weather helps me choose my clothes. I know what my first appointment is, understand what my email queue is like, and I learned that a Facebook friend takes photos of popcorn showers. OK, so maybe that last bit isn’t important, but you get the idea. This Voice Summary feature is available on demand with a button tap or can be scheduled up to three times per day in the software.
I’ve been using the software for nearly a week, and I can already see huge potential because it aggregates important data from the various web services I already use. That may be the best description of how reQall Rover works: combining natural language processing with APIs from third-party services, it delivers personalized information to keep me on track, ranging from upcoming appointments, action items, local trending terms on Twitter, traffic nearby, and more. Upcoming appointments generate information on meeting attendees through LinkedIn and other sources. You can also speak to the software to ask questions as it builds up a database of web links and user-generated answers.
In terms of data services, reQall is leveraging some of the top-tier data stores through available APIs, but Rover can be an information platform for others as well. Other companies that capture user data can provide an API to reQall for inclusion in the software, then users can choose to personalize their experience with that data. There’s little point to re-creating the wheel when it comes to data, Sunil Vemuri, chief product officer at reQall, told me via a Skype video chat:
We’re good at natural language processing and using it to keep information manageable, but we’re not experts on real estate, for example. Zillow is a leader here, so if we could use an API from their service, reQall Rover could alert me of nearby homes for sale as I drive through a new neighborhood.
The approach makes sense, because no one company is likely to be an expert on all forms of data, although we’re sure to discuss that at our Big Data event later this month. Google may have the most information when it comes to general search, for example, but if I were home shopping, I’d hit Zillow over Google any day. And third-party services that offer an API bring a win-win for everyone: Rover users gain more pertinent information, and companies that provide such data are likely to see more people use the service to make it better in the first place
All Things Digital reports that Groupon has acquired Pelago, the company behind location-based check-in service Whrrl, for an undisclosed amount. Whrrl allows users to check in to locations and discover new businesses nearby, while the Groupon iOS app simply shows nearby deals.
Could Groupon – the leader and pioneer in the deals space – overshadow efforts by other LBS services to bring deals to check-ins, by bringing check-ins to deals?
Two security researchers have discovered that iPhones and 3G-equipped iPads regularly record and store location information to a hidden file that is backed up to iTunes and even transferred to new devices. While the information isn’t necessarily accessible to remote hackers, the researchers noted that it does raise some important concerns about privacy.
Researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden announced this morning that they are presenting their findings at the Where 2.0 conference on Wednesday. “Ever since iOS 4 arrived, your device has been storing a long list of locations and time stamps,” the pair noted in a post to O’Reilly Radar. “We’re not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it’s clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations.”
Say hello to Color, a new mobile photo-sharing application with a star-studded list of entrepreneurs and an eye-popping $41 million in funding. Its goal is nothing less than to become the ultimate local discovery tool.
The app, which made its debut just a few hours ago on iPhone (and very soon on Android), is best described as public photo and video-sharing app for groups. Yet it doesn’t have the typical friending or following that you’ll find on Facebook, Twitter, Path or Instagram. Instead, Color chooses which pictures you see based on your location and how often you’re sharing photos with someone else. Every photo and video is public, not only to the people you consider your friends, but to any stranger within your proximity.
All Facebook found an area of Facebook’s site pointing to the ability to check-in to events. And just now, Google has pushed an update to their Latitude iPhone app to allow users to check-in for the first time also.
I’m finally decompressing from SXSWi. It’s 4AM of the day after I got home, and I can’t sleep, so clearly it’s the perfect time for this post!
Here are the big trends and why:
Social gaming. We’ve all been hearing about it for long enough to know this was already coming, but Austin was plastered with everything from a social gaming keynote, to panels, talks, strategies, startups, apps, roleplayers, hashtags and enough buzz to spin off into it’s own mini-event next year, somewhat like SXSWedu has. The short version is, game mechanics are here to stay, primarily because engagement and activity levels are through the roof. Pushing short-term rewards is also a dangerous game, however, Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR reminds us in a very well-received keynote. (Here’s another really interesting TEDTalk he gave in 2010, with a message very similar to his sxsw keynote).
Group texting. Whereas the last years have been characterized by mass-communication tools like Twitter and Foursquare, this year we saw an inceasing trend towards localization, curation, selection, and sub-grouping. Group texting is but one example of this trend, with upstarts like GroupMe and Beluga squaring off much like Foursquare and Gowalla did last year (GroupMe appears to have won).
QR codes. OMG QR WAS EVERYWHERE!
Decline of social? As I already predicted, terms like “social media” weren’t really part of the lexicon, it’s all so ingrained in what we do. Any app or website being pushed had a social component; with this standardization, I think soon we’ll be describing products which aren’t inherently social as antisocial (think, Word or Excel).
Managing the online persona. With so many more heads in the social media industry in the past year, topics like “How to manage your Corporate vs. Personal Brand” were numerous and very popular. As someone who took over a corporate account after having begun my own well before, I’m always thinking about how to manage this complex issue. The social consensus seems to be, “Where There is Authenticity, Anything Goes.”
Mass adoption and rapid change
Twitter as a medium for all kinds of different applications really hit tome for me here. Interesting features at the Frog Design party, as well as exhibits throughout the ACC and trade shows, played on the sheer volume of Tweets in the area with interesting visualizations, graphs, and interactive displays. With new apps like HeatTracker, built on top of Foursquare and Gowalla, which in turn are built on top of Twitter, a whole new vision of how social media function is starting to appear. With massive, hyper-connected mediums like Twitter all openly available and digital, we’re becoming able to catalogue and organize information in new and exciting networks of like-minded users, allowing even more specific and nifty apps which slice out a certain chunk of the graph to handle really well. My picks: foodspotting, localmind, Qonqr, Hashable, Yobongo, HeatTracker, locaii.
The wide adoption of Twitter at SXSW in specific is just a great example of this. SXSW really “sold” me on the value of location-based mechanics, some of which I’ve always viewed with contempt, because I’ve never had the ideal use-case of many relevant connections happening in a hyperlocal area, having lived essentially in the suburbs for the last few years. I could instantly see the appeal of LBS in a very widely-adopted crowd.
But many of my friends are’t really into the whole idea of LBS, especially becoming familiar with how the more flamboyant users’ use of it can feel like spam. It’s really amazing to see how quickly a rapidly deployed technology, like Twitter or FourSquare, can become part of popular culture; by numerous metrics discussed at a few different panels, services like Twitter and Facebook activity can spread through a culture by orders of magnitude faster than older technologies like newspaper and television – but those who haven’t already adopted appear likely to do so at only marginally increasing rates over time and similar exposure.
So, the challenge seems to be, bootstrapping a user-base into existence in areas deprived of the intense incubating effect a gathering like SXSW, or being a tech hoptspot like SF or NYC, can have.
The issues of location reminded me of the unique advantage of a university, and the importance of fostering adoption of social technologies in children and adults in education. All students and teachers are already within a very clearly defined, intellecutally connected network, on many different levels: the social graph of their interconnected class schedules, the systems like Blackboard many use to communicate privately, P/TA and school boards connections to local government, etc. Academics are already used to the operation of these kind of networks, so the learning curve would be simple.
As our students begin to use these tools in a constructive and responsible way (and, here’s a great opportunity for educators and administrators to advise them, a relationship which benefits everyone), their interest will disperse throughout the world as they graduate and leave their institutions, pollinating the tech workforce and cities they move to with the games, apps, and LBS services they love, and, significantly – will continue to be using to stay in touch with their friends for purely personal reasons.
The educational->professional synergy taking place for today’s digital natives is just startling, and a tool educators must be using! Damn the painfully slow academic machine.