BrightKite: Privacy be Damned!

If you’re being stalked by a former spouse, or lover, or coworker, or if you are a celebrity, you can pretty much stop right here. BrightKite is NOT FOR YOU.

If you’re not being stalked, then read on… maybe.

BrightKite( is another of the myriad of Web 2.0 social networking aps that seem to be popping up on an almost daily basis. But, its unique spin is its attempt (at least theoretically) to put folks in direct physical contact with each other by tracking them through the use of Google Mapping technology.

Hmmmm… make sense to you?

Like some of the other fairly recent networking sites, it is very dependent on mobile phones, specifically the ability of its users to “check in” via SMS or email. Checking in involves self reporting ones location… Whether that be the name of a state, a city, a ZIP code, or even a specific street address.

People who are following you can then see your last reported position plotted on a map. Yeh, pretty cool I suppose. And, if you are so inclined, you can then upload a photo of your location, or otherwise post a message. And I suppose if you are really inclined, you could go and actually meet up with other folks nearby. But let’s not get too crazy here… That would involve actual HUMAN interaction.

And here, in this one site, is the manifestation of the dichotomy that is today’s Internet user. In an age where many people claim to be very, very concerned about their privacy, comes a website that asks you to divulge what is potentially some very personal data… Namely your exact location on the face of the earth at any particular time.

Pretty amazing.

Now mind you, you can choose varying levels of location information you reveal, and that can be pretty vague. So if you report your location as “New York City” that’s still going to leave a lot of ground to cover. And there are additional privacy settings that can block the information from people other than those in your circle of friends. But still, as I play around with BrightKite, I can’t help but wonder… “Do I REALLY want people to know where I am?”

I’m not sure how I feel about that to be honest. I can see where it might be handy. Suppose you are taking a road trip and you want friends or family to know what sort of progress you are making. Okay, that’s pretty cool. But what if you are sitting at home, just kicking back with the family… Do you really want just anybody to be able to locate you? That’s a little unsettling in my book. And I’m not even being stalked or running from the mob. At least not that I know of.

Then again, I suppose there is always the possibility of throwing somebody off my trail. I could check-in at Boca Raton, Florida, just for giggles. But then that brings up another point. If you are concerned enough about privacy that you only give BrightKite your approximate location, then really what is the point?

I am looking at BrightKite with a skeptical eye, very similar to the way I first looked at Twitter. But I do think BrightKite might be a harder sell for the daily user than Twitter. It seems like one of those “Hey, look what we can do” websites but with rather dubious real-world use or value. At least not yet.

But, I’ll keep an open mind about it while I’m hanging out in the 28277 ZIP code. As far as you know.


3 Responses to “BrightKite: Privacy be Damned!”

  1. Interesting. I could see this being useful for someone like a touring band, executive (Zappos CEO for example) or campaigning presidential candidate. And while I personally can’t fathom how some people want to broadcast their *personal* lives to the world online, I can see how this could be useful for business applications if someone was in a public-facing role.

    Thanks for the post and the information!

  2. Scott Thatcher Says:

    The site could also be used for reviews of businesses, say, restaurants, including photos of the place, the food, the atmosphere, etc.

    Or maybe mass meeting check ins…. meeting in Las Vegas for a conference, are my old buddies from another company here yet? Let me get on brighkite and see if they’ve checked themselves in LV yet.


    in some ways it can replace the functionality of twitpic, or twitter, for some uses. And it can cross post to twitter if you want it to.

    Geeks don’t mind meeting other humans in person, as long as they use brightkite…. (aka beeding edgers…)

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