Friday, 15 August 2008

Fire Eagle - for better or for worse?

This week Yahoo! launched Fire Eagle, its location tool that lets users update and manage information about where they are, so that third-party services can connect and use that information to tailor their service. Already, more than 50 service providers have lined up to use Fire Eagle technology. Described by Yahoo! as being a "switchboard that anyone can build on top of", more are destined to follow.
So far, so good. Yahoo! is definitely onto a winner.
Or is it? Despite boasting an opt-in facility, privacy advocates are already warning about the dangers of rushing headlong into using location based services. Fire Eagle users are sent reminders every 45 days to confirm they still want to share their location, and Yahoo! says it'll delete all historical data immediately if they opt out.
But the same can't be said for the services using the data. Yahoo! can't dictate what its partners do with the information they collect, because privacy policies vary from website to website, and they can be changed without warning.
In theory, Yahoo! has come up with a tool that brings us closer to a future where location is going to become increasingly important for Web services. Progress. But until everyone adheres to digital privacy laws, we'll still be in the dark ages.

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