Being a giant Apple fanboy, I was pretty excited with all the iPhone news announced at Monday’s Worldwide Development Conference (WWDC). In addition to a wealth of new features — and availability in Canada, which I’m ridiculously happy about — the new iPhone also boasts GPS.
This isn’t a new feature for smart phones. Blackberry has it, as do some of the Windows Mobile models. But with the iPhone and Apple’s focus on entering the business market in a big way, I think we’re posed to see a real explosion of GPS-enabled employee smart phones across large businesses.
This is cool, of course, but it’s also kind of alarming for one big reason. Something that Steve Jobs himself mentioned in his keynote introduction of the GPS abilities: tracking.
Here’s Steve talking GPS:
The Big Brother Effect
Forgive me for getting a bit paranoid here. I’m not railing against the feature itself. It’s definitely not going to keep me from embracing the technology. But given that:
- The iPhone is being heavily marketed to large corporate users
- The iPhone has GPS that can do ‘live tracking’
- Companies can write proprietary applications and ‘push’ them out to their employee’s iPhones
- Those proprietary applications can use the iPhone SDK’s location services to access real-time GPS data
…doesn’t it seem possible that a company could rather easily create something that would allow them to see where all their employees are at any given time, assuming the employee had their phone on and was within satellite range?
Is this necessarily a bad thing?
If I were a person obsessed with privacy, this might bother me. But I tend to take a more open view on privacy matters in this age of facebook and social networking. Still, though, it has to be said that a situation where it would be rather trivial to create a real-time ‘employee’ tracker has far-reaching implications for how we model ‘work’ in the twenty-first century. Suddenly the boss can know if, say, Bob went directly to the meeting or — god forbid! — stopped for a long lunch, or if Joanne, who was supposedly ‘stuck in traffic’, actually just overslept.
Technology brings with it changes, some obvious and some more surprising. The iPhone and other smartphones are likely to bring with them a lot of positives, but there are some potential negatives. After all, how would you feel about your employer literally being able to ‘track’ you during work hours? Is that something you, as an employee, could feel comfortable with?