The Costs and Benefits of Anytime, Anywhere

I am going to cite two Matts in this post.

First Matt Richtel in a front page story in today’s New York Times starts out with,

Most Americans carry cellphones, but many may not know that government
agencies can track their movements through the signals emanating from
the handset.

It it true that the carriers, and increasingly software products you install on your cellphone that are carrier independent, can tell you and others exactly where you are.

While this may be problematic in certain privacy respects, it is hugely beneficial in most respects.  Do you want to know where your teenage daughter is at 11pm after she fails to call you as she promised?  Do you want to know where the nearest Starbucks or Jamba Juice or subway stop is? Would you like to be able to text message your buddies the exact location of the cool bar you are hanging out in?  I think you get the picture.

This leads me to my second Matt, Matt Blumberg, who wrote a post called The New Media Deal in the spring of 2004 which remains in my mind one of the most important posts I have read in blogs in the past couple years. 

In this post, Matt describes the new deal consumers are making via technology.  We are consciously or subconsciously sacrificing absolute privacy in return for anywhere, anytime, my way content and communication.

As Matt says in his post,

But I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that we have a New Media
Deal, which is that people are willing to sacrifice their anonymity in
a heartbeat if the value exchange is there.

So we can wring our hands all we want about the privacy issues with respect to geolocation on cell phones, or behavioral targeting on the web, or saved search history on Google, but my feeling is that the benefits of these technologies will vastly outweigh the loss of privacy for most people most of the time and that’s really all that matters.