Facebook Places 'sparks interest in similar services'
This is the dawning of the age of location-whores
Alternative location service echoecho reckons Facebook Places is driving up interest in the subject, to the good of the whole industry and, in particular, echoecho.
Apparently downloads of the echoecho client have multiplied by ten since Facebook Places was announced, which the company attributes to offering much the same functionality as Facebook Places without the privacy concerns. One might argue, though, that it also comes without the revenue generating potential.
Echoecho is a mobile client that can be used to ping anyone in the address book. If the recipient also has echoecho installed they are asked if they wish to respond, and then both users' locations appear as pins in Google Mobile Maps. If the recipient doesn't have echoecho installed then they get a text telling them they really should give it a go.
Users can also specify individuals to whom they'll automatically reply, on an opt-in basis.
The idea is to provide the important bits of Facebook Places without the rather creepy stalking side of things, but it's also driven by the requester, and harder to fake than a Facebook tag. The company reckons offering the recipient a choice to respond ensures privacy, but such a rejection will still have to be explained by the child/girlfriend/employee who gets pinged.
But at least echoecho won't be keeping track of where you were: the company tells us it keeps no logs at all, which does pose the question of how it intends to make money - the service itself is, of course, free.
Founder Nick Bicanic tells us the plan is to charge companies who request the location of their customers - using the example of a bank wishing to confirm a suspicious credit-card transaction. The bank could ping the customer, discover that they (or their phone) are at the same location as the retailer and therefore approve the purchase: all without paying a human to make the call.
That seems like slim pickings to us, even bolstered with some location-based advertising. Facebook Places will be able to implement Foursquare-style incentives for its users, most of whom really do want the world to know where they are and damn the privacy consequences.
Echoecho may be a nice service for a group of friends who like to meet up - it's easy to imagine students making great use of it - but when Facebook Places can simply opt in 500 million users it's hard to see how anyone can compete. ®
just to clarify one thing...
I am the Nick that's quoted in article...so I thought I'd say thanks here and add a touch more detail...
Bill says..."The bank could ping the customer, discover that they (or their phone) are at the same location as the retailer and therefore approve the purchase: all without paying a human to make the call."
And Bill's right. However it seems that some people think this is a serious spam issue.
So for the record - I hate spam with a passion.
echoecho was built from the ground up to be permission based and to capture minimal data on our customers. When you signup to echoecho (on anything other than an iphone) we don't even capture your name. As Bill said - no logs are kept. We exist to facilitate the asking and answering of the question "where are you"
Now how would this work in a B2C context (e.g. the bank example that Bill mentioned) - well first of all you'd have to sign up for this service with (for example) Barclays. (opt in number 1)
Second of all - even if you are signed up with Barclays - you'll still get an echo from Barclays that looks something like this - http://echoechome.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/echoecho1.jpg (opt in number 2)
so yeah I'd say we're pretty good as far as privacy in communication goes ;)
The first nuisance text I get imploring me to try it will generate a report to the ICO, and a very nasty conversation with whoever was responsible for handing my number over in the first place.
I dont want to be tracked and monitored by some vultures seeking to make money in effect by using my phone for their commercial ends, as for the "try it out" message.... Its spam pure and simple, and as it is sent to a non customer for a commercial purpose I would expect some protections under the Privacy in Communications regs. I really am sick of all these "solutions" to a problem that for many of us doesnt exist.
How to control your privacy
Not all of us want to continually broadcast all of our location details, having to change settings each time depending on how much/little we wish to display is not practical. However research from the UK may be the answer : http://onehandshake.blogspot.com/2010/08/wheres-wally.html