Last time we posted an article about Facebook and Google’s competing ”Places” applications, and mentioned similar applications begun by their forerunners (Twitter and Yelp, for example). As “location” tools explode across the internet, other applications such as Foursquare are enjoying continued and growing interest, as well. We noted that these location applications opened up new possibilities for businesses to advertise themselves and attract more customers and positive reviews. This week, we offer a view from the other side: people who don’t wish to be ”located,” preferring a certain amount of anonymity in their day-to-day physical locations.
In a recently-published New York Times article, the author observed that most of the people using Places applications are young “technically adept urbanites,” and that just 4% of Americans have even tried such services. This is probably due to the fact that people born after 1981 grew up in a generation accustomed to sharing information about themselves online.
The biggest concern for Places abstainers so far seems to be privacy. This may seem ironic, considering all of the personal pictures and information many people are comfortable posting to various social networking sites. Yet somehow, making their current physical location public seems to cross the line for many. For others, knowing where their friends are and what they are doing ‘every minute’ seems like overkill, and they don’t want to know.
There are a number of positive incentives for using location applications: some businesses offer coupons and special promotions, and public spaces such as history and science museums are catching on to the idea, sending users historical or scientific information about the place they are visiting. Some people appreciate the settings that allow them to choose exactly who can see their locations, and like to see where their friends are; they use Places as just another networking tool to help them meet up (online or in person) with others.
At the end of the day, it seems that location technology is growing in popularity, but is not yet entirely main-stream: maybe Facebook’s new Places application will change that.
MARKIT Group staff