Ankle Monitor? By choice

September 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Internet companies are now using web and mobile application to track their users down. Google, Facebook, Foursquare and Shopkick offers services that allow people update their location to receive tips, connect with their friends and claim coupons.

At the end of 2009, CNN columnist Pete Cashmore predicted that Foursquare was going to be the new Twitter for 2010. As an experiment, I downloaded the Foursquare App to my iphone and found out  that its location service resembles a real life treasure hunt: participants earn badges for checking in at certain stores, and the most frequented customers become the mayor of the place. “By all accounts, this mechanism is as addictive as Twitter, Facebook or checking your e-mail on a BlackBerry,” said Pete, the CEO and founder of Mashable.com.

Shopkick also offers virtual-game-like features.  By clicking on promotion ad or by checking in at a store and scan the barcode of a particular product, users get extra points “kickbucks” to get real-life rewards such as gift cards.

The relationship between users’ base and advertisement is never a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Before location-based social networks gain any momentum, businesses are unwilling to take risks, especially in this turtle-paced economic recovery. So far, the only five sponsors Shopkick has got are companies like BestBuy and Macy’s, which are coping relatively well.

“If checking in goes mainstream, it could give a lift to mobile advertising, which is now just a tiny percentage of overall spending on online ads”, according to New York Times. With this service, online advertisement is going to enter the customized phase, pitching offers to people who say they are at a particular spot.

However, location services are having a hard time finding its way to the masses. Even though the checking in feature allows users to choose if they want to share their location with friends or not, the sheer idea of being tracked down freaks out the privacy-minded, who happen to be the majority for now.

In an effort to reassure, Google announced that Latitude, its location service, does not keep logs of locations of individual users. Although allowing such conducts may gather valuable information for either business or research purposes, as its user I’d prefer to keep all of my coordinates between me and the machine, and possibly god.

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