The US GPS system set its 'Selective Availability' levels to zero back in May 2000
, and now the DoD is permanently removing the feature
that allows the US to degrade GPS signal accuracy at will. While this probably saves US taxpayers a few pennies by not having to include some unnecessary signal processing parts in new GPS satellites, the decision also seems to mark a turning point in the availability of wireless location data. With more and more location based services cropping up that don't actually rely on GPS signals, such as the location-aware mobile search from Sprint and Microsoft
which triangulates a caller's position between cell towers, the access to accurate location data is becoming commonplace. In fact, as more terrestrial wireless signals broadcast potentially-useful location data everywhere, the idea of using far away satellites to tell us where we are seems like an archaic concept -- and projects like Galileo
begin to sound even more redundant. The adoption of GPS (or location-aware) devices reduces the uncertainty in several aspects of our lives -- giving users the sense that they *can't* get lost. So interestingly, the DoD's decision to switch from possibly hiding location information in order to keep Americans safer -- now to accepting that accurate position data is a critical component of our economy's future efficiency -- indicates a tacit admission that the open accessibility of information really does make us more secure.