September 08, 2009, 5:30 AM — Last month, the news that Twitter is planning on adding location data to its API so that developers and then eventually people will be able to add longitude and latitude information to their Tweets. There have been lots of comments pro and con, depending on how much of a privacy nut you are.
Yes, geolocation can be a Good Thing, particularly to obtain hyperlocal news feeds, or to find a particular restaurant or service nearby, or even to find your friends for a night out on the town. But what was missing from these discussions is how prevalent geolocation already is in various services that most of us just take for granted, including ordinary cell phones.
Geolocation certainly isn't new and even Google's Latitude has been out for some time now that enables Web and smart phone users to see where their friends are located. And the latest version 5 of HTML contains code for geolocation, even though it is unreleased, it is still being perfected by various developers and not really incorporated in many browsers yet. There are services such as Brightkite.com that are social networks with geolocation information knowledge.
But your ordinary cell phones broadcast their location continuously . According to Jeff Jonas' post, roughly 600 billion locations are being collected each day from American cell phone users. "Every call, every text message, every email and data transfer" generates a location transaction. The question is what the cell carriers are doing with all this data, and how much of it they keep around for posterity. It is enough to make me want to turn off my phone every now and then. Or at least get out the tin foil hats.