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When Apps Cross the Border from Delightfully Informative to Creepy

Mobile & Apps

I’m awful at remembering names. It’s so embarrassing to walk the hallway and be greeted by people that you know (like the guy down the hall, Alan) but have no way of politely responding with “Hey, Alan“. Not me. I can only do half of that greeting … “Hey“.

It would be cool to saunter around remembering everything and greeting people just like a normal human. That’s a bit of the promise of those Google glasses. If I was wearing those all the time, I wouldn’t struggle to remember anyone’s name anymore. Walking along, a nametag would slide into my view, and it would even show reminders so I could say things like “Hey, Alan. Hope your Aunt Sally has a wonderful birthday tomorrow and so sorry to that her poodle got sick yesterday“.
Of course, walking around with augmented reality glasses quickly would label you as anything *but* a normal human. You’ve visibly become one of those cool dorky nerds that people run away from. (Photo below is from NASA, not Google.)

When Apps Cross the Border from Delightfully Informative to Creepy image katz glass

Besides nobody wants you to be fed info from the internet. It’s way too impersonal and invasive. Invasive? …. Well .. for example, how was I to know that Alan hadn’t spoken to his Aunt Sally in years and gets really mad whenever anyone mentions her or her dog?

But there are cases where you wouldn’t mind web-fed data as a helper. For example, the situations when you’re talking to someone who *should* have all of your info at their fingertips. If you walk into your favorite belt buckle store, you fully expect the shop-owner to greet you by name: “Hey, Bry” And add some casual reference to past interactions: “How’d that speckled buckle work out”? You’d feel like you were dealing with a high quality vendor. Of course, if they were wearing internet goggles, that would just seem weird and invasive. But, if it appears to be unaided, it’s viewed as high quality.

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Unfortunately or fortunately, there are increasingly more ways for them to do this without Goggles. For example, you’re probably one of those people who clicked “OK” when that app on your phone asked if it was ok to use your location. After all, it felt harmless at the time. So if the buckle vendor can subscribe to your location and use a “CustomerTrack” application (click here for an article about an app called “Creepy” & twitter security) that can alert her when you’re within a block of her store. When you walk in, she can greet you by name. No Goggles, so you wouldn’t know. But if you did know that her greeting was internet-assisted, this would feel somewhat invasive and even a bit creepy.

Or what if your favorite candidate that you “liked” on your Facebook page decided to hunt through your page to figure out who your friends were? By “liking” them, you’ve given them permission (Click here for Time Magazine article about this). So the candidate’s staff can see who your friends are, and they can now solicit these folks. Invasive and a bit creepy? Sure. But this is widely touted as one of the more successful methods of the latest Presidential Campaign.

Now I need to climb out of a bit of a hole. I’m not a luddite. While I see the chance to abuse Augmented Reality and tracking applications, there are cases where they are really valuable.

Personalized service is a hallmark of my company’s Call Center technologies as story after story shows. For example, by identifying your needs up front in a conversational manner, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City will get you to the right person to speak with immediately instead of requiring you to “press 1 for new claims, press 2 for old claims, …”. And our Social Media Manager allows Call Centers to field Social media events and track sentiment by assigning scores to social media. This means a business can react directly to topics that blossom in Social tools.

The live virtual collaboration environment we provide is another nerdy example allowing secure social interactions, but leveraging insightful user data. MIT’s Sloan Business School said they used this during Hurricane Sandy. Folks couldn’t make it to campus, but they could still sit in on an executive education program. And folks who were on campus joined the forum because the tool let them interact effectively with the other virtual participants in real time using personalized avatars.

Where is this all heading? Whether we like it or not, we seem to be meandering towards a cyborg world, where you’d have one foot in reality and the other in the internet. Whether you participate voluntarily by wearing internet Googles or swallowing a computer (no .. .I’m not kidding … look here) or join a virtual world, or whether you get enveloped into it by others using the technology. You are still bound to be a participant in this hybrid world.

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