14 August 2008

Fire Eagle has its eye on you.

Yahoo! has just launched a new service called Fire Eagle which basically is a feature that assists in the management of location information. Yahoo! markets this service as being a feature which enables the net user to take his/her location to web and for each web site to become 'geo-aware' and 'respond to where users are.'

According to the BBC a substantial number of third-party developers (current figure is in excess of 50) have actually signed up to offer this feature to its users. Yahoo! has not applied this feature yet to its applications but might do so depending on its popularity in coming months.
This new feature gives rise to a number of privacy , security and ethical issues as the true impact of the feature has not so far been made clear to the end-user. In effect, the feature enables the generation, collection and storage of location data relating to the end-user.

Yahoo! has defended the new feature and has argued that the user has total control on the type of data stored. The feature will also request reauthorisation from the end-user for sharing of the data every 45 days. However this does not solve the problem of data Yahoo! shares with its partner companies. In relation to the latter, the user can opt-in the sharing scheme but the fact of the matter is that users are currently not sufficiently educated about the impact of opting-in where Fire Eagle is being used. In addition, the 45 day period is quite unsatisfactory as the data of users are shared during this period without the latter being aware of this happening.

CyberPanda thinks that the privacy, security and ethical issues raised by this new feature should have been properly considered and addressed before its launch. The current situation is quite worrying as the end-user might sign up to this service, in the belief that it is the next big thing, without being adequately aware of what they are signing up for.

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