With the advent of Google Latitude last week, more eyes have been on location-sharing tools, like recently deceased Dodgeball and fully Twitter integrated Brightkite. Latitude offers particpants the option to share their location by setting it manually or by letting Latitude detect it (which doesn’t seem to be quite right yet), using iGoogle or Google Maps Mobile. Brightkite and Dodgeball, on the other hand, let users set their location via website or SMS. These services really seem to have struck a chord with a lot of people.
Just one thing – in the cases of Brightkite and Latitude (not Dodgeball- it seems to have been fairly NY-centric), early adopters have been almost entirely men. Though this fits the stereotype (and findings) that men are generally early adopters, I’ve been drawn to the gender bias more here than other times.
I hypothesize that women have been particularly slow to adopt these location-aware apps because of safety concerns. Regardless of any hopes, we still live in a society (especially in urban areas) where there is a greater need for concern over the safety of women. Advertising one’s location can play into that fear at best, and genuinely pose a safety risk at its worst.
While phone books have been publishing address content for decades, with these tools, location is paired with other personal content, like photos or status updates. The up-to-the-moment stream of location information is so new to the public eye that we may not even have seen it exploited yet. When will we hear of a robbery (or something worse) made easy by twitter updates? (I love it when someone else has already explored this idea for me!)
I have chosen to be fairly open about my location, but not without some reservations and precautions. I live and work behind very locked doors, and actually consider it a safety feature that I often forget to update. Nothing renders this constant stream of information more obsolete and irrelevant than when it’s no longer up-to-date. In my ideal world, a transparent world, we’d have no issues sharing this kind of data because it would be commonplace and therefore much less significant.