Feeds

Yahoo! knows! where! you! are!

Fire Eagle takes off

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

Yahoo's punter-locating database officially launched yesterday and already has privacy advocates in a flap, despite offering users complete control as well as expecting them to lie every now and then.

Fire Eagle is a free central service to which punters can subscribe and maintain their current location. Services then subscribe to it in order to become location-optimised - so one updates Fire Eagle to say one is in the Highlands and any site that integrates with the service can pick up that information to deliver Highland-specific information.

The granularity of information supplied to services is under control of the user, so I might provide Fire Eagle with my SatNav coordinates, but only want my current postcode passed on. I can also refuse to provide detailed information, switch off the service when I want some privacy, or even lie about where I am - Yahoo makes great play of providing a service, not spying on anyone.

Punters will also be sent a reminder every 45 days to confirm they still want to share their location, and Yahoo! say they'll delete all historical data immediately - though they can't make the same promise about services using the data.

More than 50 such services are already signed up to use Fire Eagle, with applications such as Nokia-owned Plazes offering to upload punters' GPS coordinates automatically, so all your contacts can see where you are all the time - at least until you tell the service to stop snitching on you.

Yahoo! has gone out of its way to allay privacy concerns, and isn't betting the farm on the success of Fire Eagle - none of Yahoo's own applications will be using the service until it proves popular, as Yahoo co-founder Dabid Filo told the BBC:

"If we get millions of consumers using the service and have thousands of applications, we think it will be good for Yahoo. We want our services to be location aware as well and obviously the more consumers that are willing to use it the more we will be able to tailor our services to them and the better it is for us."

The problem comes when and if such services become ubiquitous, when the authorities start demanding historical information (as they already do from the mobile-network operators) and when opting out of the service prompts the question "what have you got to hide?" ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Turnbull: NBN won't turn your town into Silicon Valley
'People have been brainwashed to believe that their world will be changed forever if they get FTTP'
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
ISPs' post-net-neutrality world is built on 'bribes' says Tim Berners-Lee
Father of the worldwide web is extremely peeved over pay-per-packet-type plans
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.