There's Privacy, Then There's Practicality
from the now-you-know-i-run-really-slowly dept
We first posted last week about the minor uproar that developed after some security researchers said that the Nike+iPod unit, which lets runners track their workouts, could be used to "track" people. However, as we pointed out, trying to track someone with the device was rather impractical -- almost to the point of uselessness. But the story has continued to smolder, and yesterday well-known security blogger Bruce Schneier weighed in with a post slamming Nike and Apple for failing to consider the privacy implications of the product before putting it on the market and calling for a law "requiring companies to add security into these sorts of systems", which fits nicely with the original researchers' calls for a body to investigate the privacy implications of every new product. Schneier doesn't accuse the companies of being evil, just lazy -- but what seems more realistic is that they probably did consider the privacy implications of the wireless device, and realized that any information that could be gleaned from it was relatively useless, and that any method of tracking somebody with it would be discouragingly cumbersome. And, if so, they're right: calling what one could do with this device "tracking" is a stretch. To actually track someone with it, a person would have to place one of the researchers' $250 readers every 100 feet or so, or follow them within 60 feet, which sort of defeats the point. While all too often companies act with disregard for privacy, practicality has to enter in somewhere, before people start calling for new laws and restrictions. Crying the privacy equivalent of wolf on rather harmless products doesn't help; if anything, it marginalizes legitimate concerns and complaints and makes them easier to ignore.