This week we looked into location tracking in two different app categories: Suzie looked at activity trackers and Chris turned his attention to anonymous confessions. All four of the apps we looked at ask for your location data, but the rewards you receive for this valuable data vary. Activity trackers like Moves and Human really need your location to work properly. Like Suzie, I’m a fan of Moves and I’m very relaxed about letting it store data about my location. It’s interesting and in theory helps me get in shape.
Anonymous confession apps like Secret and Whisper have a more tenuous need for your location data. Whisper uses your location to connect you with other users. Secret gathers location data too. But as Chris points out, it needs to explain more clearly why it wants this information.
The question about all these apps is whether it’s really safe to share your personal location data with them. As Stuart Dredge pointed out a few weeks ago, there’s no really good reason to trust brand-new startups in this regard. It might be that they’re really successful and hackers start to target their app, he says, or “…they’re not successful but they have clever technology, [so] they might get bought by Google, or Facebook, or Yahoo. And if they simply shut down, how much do you know about what data they’re storing and how they’ll dispose of it”.
In the post-Snowden world, where more of us are conscious of the choices we make when sharing our information, app developers should empower us and let us choose what we want to share with them. Of the four apps we looked at this week, Moves, Human and Whisper all let users turn location services off. Secret doesn’t and I can’t think of a good enough reason for that. A more thoughtful software company would offer that option.