Reliving the Orwellian Vision of 1984 in the 21st Century

The boffins of MIT have brought us a new creation, inspired by social networking success of the MySpace/ Facebook/ yadayada crowd.

Its what I call a back-to-basics approach, making social networking return to its offline roots.

A location-based application for “friendspotting”, iFind wants to help you find your friends anywhere, using data from WiFi access points to determine your location. Carlo Ratti, the director of the MIT lab that developed this, said he hopes this technology can help people “make serendipitous connections” in the real, physical world, in addition to keeping track of them. It seems the first market to try this out is the MIT college community of students, professors and staff. Talk about eating your own dog food, lets see how their home crowd takes this intrusion of privacy.

Some key summaries of this service are:

  1. opt-in, permission-based users willing to experiment with the service
  2. users will determine their own iFind network of friends who can locate them (sounds pretty standard so far)
  3. location data not to be stored on any database
  4. Java-based application run off laptops for application to work

Screenshots here:

ss_chat.jpg

ss_chat.jpg

The website is really sketchy on this application and how it actually works. There are source codes and a privacy policy that could be interesting upon closer scrutiny but nothing really exciting or insightful to allay any privacy and data security fears a typical user might have. This is really exploratory and the experiment results and adoption rate will be closely studied. Its a massive step forward for security experts who might want to deploy more advanced systems that have based on GPS on a mainstream, social scale. Granted that more advanced technology already exists in the form of RFID chips in cars, sensors, spycams and tracking devices on roads for speed offenders, using Java and Wifi almost sounds Jurassic on a technical level but the proliferation of Wifi hotspots in college campuses and cities such as Mountain View and Singapore will make these ripe locations for secondary deployment of this iFind.

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