Facebook Acquisition Points to Future of More Phone Tracking

The Glancee purchase is another move to beef up the online social network's mobile offering

Facebook is likely to take its location-sharing feature further and recommend you connect with new people in the real world following its acquisition of Glancee, an app for finding others nearby who share the same friends and interests as you.

It's another move to beef up the online social network's mobile offering and follows close on the heels of its $1 billion purchase of Instagram. And while Facebook has shut down the app, the company now owns its technology and has hired Glancee's three founders, reports TechCrunch.

Facebook's mobile app already lets you check-in to places, but by bringing Glancee -- a location app for iPhone, Android, and Facebook -- into the fold, the company appears to be looking to do something similar for its mobile platform to what it already does for its digital platform.

There are pros and cons to apps like Glancee.

Because they rely on real-time data, they have to do a lot of communicating with cell phone towers and as such, they can suck away your smartphone battery life pretty quickly.

And a lot of people have privacy concerns with apps that share your location with strangers. Obviously, Glancee users wanted to do that sharing or they wouldn't have been using the app. If the technology gets baked into Facebook, one has to assume that the social network would make any such location sharing opt-in only, considering that privacy is an issue that users seem to constantly complain about.

Tech pundit Robert Scoble brings up a couple of good points in an audio blog on the subject of Facebook's acquisition.

He uses Highlight, an app similar to Glancee, and calls it "networking for introverts" because if you go over to meet someone that the app suggest to you, it gives you information about what kinds of things he or she likes as well as who you both know. So in that regard, the app helps you have a conversation.

"It also gives social proof for who you are and how you fit into the network," Scoble said.

He also points out that apps like Glancee and Highlight point to a future in which the technology we use increasingly remembers our behavior so as to provide us with richer, more helpful information.

"We're in the homebrew computer society age of these new kinds of serendipitous apps and apps that learn about us," he said.

He's right.

While any conversation about tracking people's cell phones undoubtedly raises all sorts of protestations from those who don't like the idea, a couple of things can't be denied.

First, a lot of what we're doing on and with our mobile devices is already being tracked by scads of application developers and device makers who aim to improve their products and marketing activities because they know what we like, where we go and how we spend our money.

And while you may not like that idea, tracking can be useful. Scoble points to an app called Placeme, which tracks and remembers where your phone goes.

"The promise of all these things is to tell us stuff," he said.

Some people love the idea, others clearly do not. For the latter, opting out of location tracking could someday mean shutting off the phone entirely.

In which camp are you?

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