You can’t exactly accuse Robert Scoble of being a privacy alarmist, especially since he’s gone out of his way to assuage some of the privacy concerns surrounding Google Glass. That said, there is one mapping application that even Scoble thinks is too “freaky” and that needs significant changes to ensure user privacy. In a blog post reviewing the Nokia-owned Trapster mapping application, Scoble writes that Trapster’s software team has gone way over the line when it comes to respecting user privacy while showing how Trapster could be used to stalk users’ each and every move.
Essentially, Trapster is a program similar to Waze that lets users report traffic conditions, accidents and police speed traps in real time. What has Scoble particularly freaked out about it, however, is the fact that Trapster creates a blue line of a user’s path showing every single place they’ve visited over the span of the past two hours. For Scoble, this sort of tracking crosses the line in a way that Google’s assorted location-based services do not.
“Trapster shows your driving behavior on other people’s mobile phones as a blue line,” Scoble writes. “A traceable path. Waze doesn’t do that, Trapster does. The blue line is there to show people that someone has just driven there and hasn’t reported any cops or other driving problems. The thing is this blue line sticks around for hours (I believe two, in my testing) and can be captured as a friend did on my account. He called me after I reported a cop and said ‘Hey, did you just make a U Turn?’ Why yes I did. ‘Oh, how did you know that?’ I asked. ‘I’m watching you on Trapster.'”
Scoble says that this is particularly troublesome because he’s never found a way to switch off the “blue line” tracker while using the service — in other words, just having the service turned on means that anyone can see every place he’s been over the span of two hours. Scoble concludes that “this lack of care with over-the-freaky-line privacy features from a company as important as Nokia is definitely troubling.
A screenshot of Trapster’s blue line tracker follows below.