Geolocation data - Good for Internet or Satan incarnate?

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
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Geolocation data - Good for Internet or Satan incarnate?

I was reading this CNN article about geolocation data and found it very intriguing for both the good and evil it can spawn.

Google and other search engines are getting more creative with the way their search engines work. Many are now using geolocation data (based on IP address) to determine your approximate whereabouts to tailor search results to your location. For example, if you do a search on "dentist" on Google, you'll probably see some ad results that are tailored to your location. To quote yesterdays blog "Do you see what I see, a star a star dancing in the night" - well with geolocation you may see a dancing star and I may see a dancing baby.

There are several good applications for geolocation. For example, Digital Envoy, uses it to fight e-mail "phishing" scams. The e-mail header is analyzed to determine what countries the message has bounced through.

Some companies uses the technology to automatically customize e-commerce sites with local currencies calculated and displayed on the webpage.

Akamai Technologies tries to reduce network congestion by steering visitors to the closest servers "mirroring" the original content. Akamai then licenses this technology to others.

Many Web sites target banner ads by country. Google extends this even further by letting advertisers target ads to a city or distance from a given address.

Interestingly, ESPN.com uses geolocation data to segment the .edu college audience. I guess knowing college website visitors gives them the ability to increase the volume on Dicky V (is that possible?). That is, .edu visitors get more Dicky V articles, commentaries, and videos - i.e. "What a diaper dandy baby!" that would turn off anyone not still in college.

But is all this really good for the Internet? What is so great about the Internet is that no matter where you lived on this planet, you could search and find information on anything. with no censorship

Now, with geolocation gaining steam, several websites are using the data to censor content.

For example, the French uses geolocation data to ban its citizens from reading Nazi content. (I would assume pro-Nazi content and not historical info on Nazis)

While I'm no Nazi fan, I don't want my government telling me what I can and cannot read. This great freedom is what distinguishes this country from France and many other countries.

I read another example of geolocation usage that I found disturbing. Sportingbet PLC, a British gambling outfit blocks users from the Netherlands to comply with Dutch laws.

Now since when do the British have to comply with Dutch laws? Why should the gambling outfit from another country be held responsible for blocking another country's citizens access?

It should be the Dutch's responsibility to filter IP traffic from websites it deems illegal or order their ISPs to filter it anyway.

Another scary application of geolocation comes from a company called DidTheyReadIt. It's an e-mail service that lets senders determine whether and for how long a recipient has opened a message, also offers information on where the message was opened.

As Spiderman's uncle said "With great power comes great responsibility". So who shall wield this great power of displaying specific content based upon IP address? What if I don't like the content that is being displayed to me? With whom do I protest?

The Internet is no longer the wide open, free expanse that it once was. Soon it will become a hodge podge of "digital gated communities" and if you don't have the right IP address, you are SOL.



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