Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Location tracking for your car

Slate has a piece on a new service provided by Networkcar that provides location tracking for your car. As author Paul Boutin points out, there’s a downside:

Some day soon we’ll take the car out to “get groceries,” with the usual side trips along the way to the music store, the espresso joint, the computer store, the pub. (Why not? It’s 1 p.m. already.) When we come home three hours later, we’ll find the Spouse holding up a printout that looks like one of those Family Circus cartoons, where Billy leaves a dotted line all over the neighborhood on his way to picking up a quart of milk on the next block. In this case, the dotted line is the path of our supposed grocery trip, and we are busted.

On the face of it, this looks like a great example of Technology Destroying Privacy. However, there are two things that argue for a different interpretation. Actually, three. (No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.)

  • First, it’s voluntary: you have to have it installed yourself. So that gets rid of the Big Brotherish element. (Unless, of course, your Mom and Dad have it installed in your car. Then its back to the fascist police state scenario.)
  • Second, OnStar has had great success with its system, which uses GPS to give location information to a central service. But people like it because that information can be used to help them when they’re lost. Context– in this case, context of use– is everything.
  • Third, the information goes to the user.

Once the price goes down, I might think about this myself. I’m not sure what I’d use it for, but somehow the idea of being able to create those Family Circus-like maps is irresistable.

1 Comment

  1. The last sentence, about being able to create those dotted maps yourself, is something that has been keeping me up at night lately. I don’t want blogging – keeping a diary is weak – I want the whole enchilada! I want an experience captured with as much data as possible that would allow me or anyone else to re-experience or recreate it. I want photo albums that speak, digital video that recalls and a way to remember just where the hell that out-of-the-way restaurant was in that tiny village near the Mediterranean.

    I’m working on a research/social experiment that would monitor everything I do for months at a time incorporating GPS, video, audio, photography, physical characteristics like heart rate or blood pressure combined with GIS technologies to build a formidable “Experience Album” to extend the idea of geoblogging. It’s all off-the-shelf hardware and software with a little programming to make it happen.

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