Online privacy is important, yes – but is it overrated? Recently, there have been plenty of scares revolving around online privacy, how easy it is to be violated, and the worrying repercussions when we as individuals face a breach.
Yet recently, in amongst the terrifying (and embarrassing) Snapchat hacks, Cloud leaks and Facebook Messenger concerns, there is now a beacon of good news.
Facebook may know exactly where you are at all times – but is that always such a bad thing? Earlier this week, they unveiled a new feature which will make it far easier for friends and family to ensure that their loved ones are safe in the aftermath of disasters affecting their immediate area.
‘Safety Check’ will work on both their mobile and desktop versions across a multitude of platforms, and could potentially give contacts piece of mind and added security about the wellbeing of those they know. When in the vicinity of an unfolding natural disaster, you will get a notification from Facebook prompting them to check in as either being ‘safe’ or not currently in the affected area.
Updates will them be posted out into your feed for those you’re connected with to see, presumably weighting highly in algorithms. Friends can also opt to receive notifications during disasters whenever their friends check in, to ensure they don’t miss important news.
Facebook says: “We’ll determine your location by looking at the city you have listed in your profile, your last location if you’ve opted in to the Nearby Friends product, and the city where you are using the internet”, and explained that they’d been inspired by the heart-breaking 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
The new feature aims to ease some of the confusion at such difficult times and could even potentially mean resources are less stretched. It is hoped that other events – such as terrorist attacks – could also trigger similar check-in requests as an additional security measure.
It’s not the first time that the concept of ‘checking in’ has been used to help those who may be potentially vulnerable. Webroster, a service used by those working in the care profession, allows its carers to check in using a specially formulated app, once attending to an appointment at a client’s home.
This technology is a lifeline in ensuring vulnerable people always get the care they need, and alerts can be flagged up looking for alternative care to administer much needed medication and so on, should the carer not arrive when necessary. Unlike Facebook, there are no potential risks when it comes to confidentiality when using this service, as users are aware at all times of the real-world benefits to them and their clients, as its inherent in its nature.
There are plenty of other Apps whose knowledge of your location can theoretically even save lives.
Many people are not aware, for example, of Google’s ‘Location History’ feature, which can pinpoint a user’s location down to the street name, providing they’re logged in on a device with a Google account and connected to the internet. This could be instrumental in locating missing persons, for example, or helping people who are lost to find their way home.
It’s never ideal to feel spied on. But there’s most certainly a positive aspect to the otherwise seemingly intrusive nature of technology, and these apps and services are arguably paving the way to a safer, happier world.