Everyone is talking about Facebook’s new location-based service, and so far there are mixed feelings about it and the privacy concerns it brings up. But for those who are complaining that Facebook is sounding a little like Big Brother, apparently they haven’t heard about Yahoo’s newest patent. Only days after finalizing a patent to predict the future, Yahoo was granted a patent for their new “Who, What, When, Where Communications Network” (or W4 COMN for short).
Basically, they will use this technology to gather information about anyone or anything connected to the Internet. It presents a framework for them to crawl and index anything and everything, taking notice of, well, everything. For example, it will use mobile phones to track people’s locations, internet-enabled television/video game/music hardware to see what they are watching/playing/listening to, image editing software to see what people are looking at, etc. It then assigns every person/object a Real World Entity (RWE) identification number. Using these unique numbers, it then can build a communication network that includes, theoretically, everything in the world.
Doesn’t that sound a little disturbing? Talk about privacy issues – anyone connected to the internet in anyway is being stalked. The way I see it, this could be the only thing that could possibly take down the rise of smart phones. Who wants to carry around a tracking/stalking device in their pocket?
Yahoo’s intentions were not evil when coming up with this idea. Everyone knows that the Internet is not always the most trusted source of information – anyone can get on there and say whatever they want about anything. Yahoo plans to track real-world information to assign real value to objects. For instance, let’s say Juan’s Taco Shop has a really nice website, lots of great online reviews, and thousands of fans on Facebook. But Pedro’s Taco Shop across the street gets more traffic, revenue, and repeat customers, even though it’s online presence is not as strong. Yahoo’s technology would take this into account when assigning value and ranking the two taco shops, likely putting Pedro’s above Juan’s. In essence, Yahoo would be assigning value to an entity’s real world presence, as opposed to their online presence. Search engine optimization services would have to be done in many other, more physical ways to ensure high rankings on search engines.
Either way, I’m sure most people out there would be opposed to being assigned a number and being constantly tracked. Would you?