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New Phone Uses GPS To Locate Your Contacts 147

Posted by Zonk
from the oh-crap-here-comes-ted dept.
Salvance writes "Palo Alto-based Loopt Inc. has announced an agreement with Sprint Nextel to immediately begin offering their cell phone mapping service to all 3.8 Million Sprint Boost subscribers (Sprint Boost is a service specifically targeting the under-25 market). This service will notify users when another subscriber in their contact list is within 25 miles, providing a real-time map displaying their contacts' locations. According to the article, the only apparent privacy safeguard is to provide users the option to 'temporarily cut out from being spotted by their friends.' Given a retailer's propensity to package together extra services, and the average user's lack of knowledge regarding their phone's capabilities, this new service seems ripe for abuse."
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New Phone Uses GPS To Locate Your Contacts

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:21PM (#16874812)
    I'd think that'd be the bigger news. They're so tiny! And now I will never lose them.
  • They should set it to be able to track within, like a mile or even less.
    • by adamstew (909658)
      FTA: "Using the phones' built-in GPS satellite technology, the Boost Loopt service could alert users whenever their friends are within a half-mile to 25 miles."

      It looks like you can set it anywhere from 1/2 mile to 25 mile radius.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:22PM (#16874838) Homepage Journal
    I'd rather know when my contacts are within .1 mile than within 25 miles. At least 10% of my contacts spend most of their lives within 25 miles.
  • Its more likely, the still hormone strengthed under-25 crowd will spend their time catching their significant others in otherwise undetected social situations that had previously gone undetected. Or, was that what you meant?
    • Every breath you take
      Every move you make
      Every bond you break
      Every step you take
      I'll be watching you

      Every single day
      Every word you say
      Every game you play
      Every night you stay
      I'll be watching you

      Oh, cant you see
      You belong to me
      How my poor heart aches
      With every step you take

      Every move you make
      Every vow you break
      Every smile you fake
      Every claim you stake
      I'll be watching you

      Unfortunately, the Police's political commentary seems only to have become more timely over the past twenty years... th

      • even when there's little evidence that the wholesale surrender of our civil liberties has really foiled any terrorist plots.

        What is far more important is evidence that the wholesale surrender of our civil liberties will foil any terrorist plots. If it has foiled some plot, then it is just that much more likely that the next plot will avoid that particular weakness. Also, "foiled" plots are easy to manufacture, whereas sound, well-reasoned arguments for why a given action will foil future plots are much

  • by jimstapleton (999106) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:23PM (#16874876) Journal
    how much do you think sprint is gonna get owned in lawsuits?
  • ..... for the first lawsuit regarding the misuse of this technology to be filed? Methinks seconds. Maybe minutes at the most.

    The upshot is that lawyers now have a new income source.
  • by Captain Sarcastic (109765) * on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:24PM (#16874894)
    ...can anyone here tell me what makes this even remotely (pardon the expression) a GOOD idea?

    We have been using technology to bring people closer, but there are some advantages to keeping one's distance.
    • ...can anyone here tell me what makes this even remotely (pardon the expression) a GOOD idea?

      *with parent hat on* Knowing where my kids are.

      Besides that - can't think of a thing.

      Oh and don't get me wrong - a GPS-enabled phone is not the best foundation for a trusting parent-child relationship; but when pressed to find something of worth in it - that's what I come up with.

      • *putting parent hat on as well*

        OK, I can see that.

      • I realized something when I was approaching the end of teenage years. I figured that emotions like trust and respect where for lack of a better word mature emotions. Fear on the otherhand seems to be very primal, until kids are old enough to understand and exhib trust and respect, a limited amount of fear will work just as well.

        It worked for me I never knew how much my parents knew about me, I was always afraid the knew the answer before they asked. I think this would be a good thing for parents. It's easy
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ultrasonik (775562)
      I like the idea. It's not like anyone can track you. If you can't trust your friends then you've got bigger issues. I would use it. I travel around a lot and have friends in many different cities and states. It would be great if I was traveling and some old friend called me up because they saw I was in town.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Sometimes I would just like to do things and go places without broadcasting the news to everyone I know, and the measly temporary opt-out certainly doesn't cut it for me. Whether I trust my friends or not is irrelevant. If you like it, by all means, do it, but count me out.

        I just hope that the ability to (easily) track others will stay limited to subscribers of this and similar services.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by StikyPad (445176)
      We have been using technology to bring people closer

      Er.. I think most luddites would argue that technology has kept us seperated, as the telephone, the TV, and the internet have directly contributed to the decline in face-to-face contact and communication.

      The only reason this is a good idea is that it's a new idea. I can see a group of girls wanting this (at first), or some college buddies so they know what bar their friends are in when they finally finish that paper, but overall it will probably be of lim
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        We have been using technology to bring people closer

        Er.. I think most luddites would argue that technology has kept us seperated, as the telephone, the TV, and the internet have directly contributed to the decline in face-to-face contact and communication.

        They could make that argument; my counterargument is that you're as close to people as you feel. Relocation and suburbism, as well as rampant inflation and a minimum wage that hasn't kept up with it in twenty years, THESE are the things that keep us

        • by StikyPad (445176)
          you're as close to people as you feel.

          Nonsense. There's perception, and there's misperception. Ever had a great friend in a MMORPG? Quit playing and see how well they keep in touch. That's just an example, and there are certainly counterexamples of people who find out they didn't know their spouse, but your basically asserting that "if you think you're close to someone, then you are," which is something most people learn isn't true in their youth.

          Relocation and suburbism, as well as rampant inflation an
    • ...can anyone here tell me what makes this even remotely (pardon the expression) a GOOD idea?

      Having had my wife become ill when commuting home and having had her call on her cell phone only able to tell me that she was parked, and near some trees, and unable to stay awake, I can certainly see a good use for this.

      We have been using technology to bring people closer, but there are some advantages to keeping one's distance.

      Apparently, you can deactivate the feature that provides your information. Admitt

    • by spasm (79260)
      You and yr idiot friend are meeting to get drunk. Your friend isn't real familiar with your town:

      You: "Where are you?"

      Friend: "I don't know - I'm beside a blue building near some traffic lights"

      You: "Never mind, my phone says you're a block away. Stay there and I'll come meet you".

      At least if one earlier press release is true (service gives direction and distance, not just distance).

      But yeah, opt in on a case by case basis seems like it'd be a much much better default.
    • by Grishnakh (216268)
      There's nothing to worry about here. This is a feature of Sprint's "Boost" service, which according to TFA is a service targeted at the under-25 crowd. They don't care about their privacy. Haven't you looked at myspace.com before?

      The rest of can stay happy with our non-GPS-tracking phone service.
  • This is marketed to the under 25 crowd? So if you are sitting in a lecture hall, you are constantly getting an update of where everybody in your 50+ buddy list is on campus at that moment?

    This can't operate the way they describe.
    • This is marketed to the under 25 crowd? So if you are sitting in a lecture hall, you are constantly getting an update of where everybody in your 50+ buddy list is on campus at that moment?

      You're confusing the "under 25 crowd" with the "under 22 crowd", i.e. students.

      It sounds like a target is the so called "young professionals" out and about on the town

      • by lawpoop (604919)
        Not everyone starts college immediately after high school, and not everyone finishes in exactly four years.

        Even if it were for young professionals, 25 miles pretty much covers a town/city radius. You would only be getting a notification if someone was coming in from out of town, or totally crossing town. If someone were traveling 25+ miles into your area and they wanted to see you, or even had the time to see you, don't you think this meeting would already be planned?
        • Not everyone starts college immediately after high school, and not everyone finishes in exactly four years.

          And not everyone takes until 18 to graduate from high school, and not everyone goes to college at all. A sizable percentage of under 25s are not students, and a sizable percentage of those that are have a life that extends beyond campus.

          Further, it seems that what this offers is not simply a "notification" as the contact crosses into or out of the range, as I read it, it gives you a realtime update of

  • *chime* (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:26PM (#16874926) Homepage Journal
    Hmm? Oh, pardom me guys, it's a mesasge on my phone...

    ted from acctg is shaggin ur gf lol

    Thanks, Sprint!
  • by adamstew (909658) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:27PM (#16874940)
    FTFA: "The real-time tracking would only occur for those who have agreed to be located and had given the user their mobile phone numbers." So you have to agree to be tracked in the first place.
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:41PM (#16875164) Journal
      I buy two phones & stick one + lots of extra batteries in/on your car.

      Privacy invasion or stalker heaven?
      You decide.
      • by d474 (695126)
        Excellent point. That's the loop hole. Of course, you better retrieve your "tracking" phone before the battery dies, or else your target might find it!
      • by lav-chan (815252)

        Anybody can do that with already-existing GPS technology. The police sometimes use it to track suspects' vehicles.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)
          Some companies actually sell products meant for this purpose [gopass.com.tw]. I found out about these GoPass guys because I bought one of their bluetooth GPS units. It's about the size of a pager (remember those?) and smaller than the average flip phone. It tracks 20 satellites, supports WAAS and EGNOS, and gets 10 hours of battery life (included Li-Ion.) These guys make a module with a GPS and a GPRS unit that will report back tracking info via the 'net, and which uses an external antenna. Actually, they make like five di
      • You could do that right now with a small two-way radio and a GPS. It's not hard, and if you are planning on doing something like that, you're probably not going to be bothered by the fact that you're supposed to have an amateur radio license first.

        They seem to be out of production right now, but there was a company that was making little integrated units consisting of a GPS receiver and Amateur radio transceiver, that fed into the APRS system. I think it was a combination of this transmitter [byonics.com] and an equally
        • by topham (32406)
          Amazingly enough, I've heard that UNDER the car is excellent. (Radio waves bouncing off the pavement).

          I doubt it is as accurate as sitting on the roof, but you do not need 100% coverage, you need 'decent' coverage, intermittent, once every block or so is enough to track, and once parked GPS is very good, even in bad conditions. (Assuming you have a unit which can be forced to keep trying.).

          Me, i just wish I could figure out how I can take advantage of the GPS in my cell phone, far as I can tell it's useless
    • Yes it is.  I may want Jill to be able to track me, but not Suzy.  But if Johny is looking through Jill's phone and gives my number to Suzy...
    • by gillbates (106458) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @06:38PM (#16877180) Homepage Journal

      you have nothing to worry about.

      But I think the government is very happy about this service. I'm sure the phone company would be more than happy to provide this information to the government, if requested, regardless of whether or not you agree to be tracked. Remember, if you irritate the government, you could lose your license to the radio spectrum on which your revenue depends.

      After all, if you have nothing to hide why would you object to the government knowing where you are at all times? Don't you realize that this is for the safety of the children? Are you really going to object to technology that could help solve a kidnapping?

      It is optional today. But not for long. As soon as the government figures out that this can be used to track everyone, in real time, it will become mandatory. They'll pass the law in the name of "protecting the children", or "fighting terrorism", etc...

  • by chaboud (231590) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:27PM (#16874942) Homepage Journal
    Does one agree to be located in general, or on a per-person basis? If it's in general, how can I know who's tracking me once my number is available to them?

    I'm not worried about stalkers, personally, but this is the sort of thing that you might see being handed out to girls on college campuses or boys on grade-school ones.

    Married couples could see this causing trouble.

    Tony: "You shut tracking off for a few hours there. Where were you?"
    Toni: "You're a freak. I'm leaving you."
    Tony: "For the guy/girl/goat that you were off with when you went off the radar?!" ...

    Honestly, though, it's kind of a cool feature.

  • by us7892 (655683) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:28PM (#16874956) Homepage
    So when I tell one friend I'm staying in because I'm tired, and go out with another friend for some beers, and tell yet another I was working late, I'm gonna get screwed when they all locate me nearby.

    How about they work on dropped calls and poor coverage first.
    • by Bassman59 (519820)
      How about they work on dropped calls and poor coverage first.

      Word!

    • On the plus side, if Sprint can't complete a phone call reliably, your friends will never receive the GPS update of your location, either.
  • I felt him (Score:5, Funny)

    by jeepee (607566) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:28PM (#16874958) Homepage Journal
    Welcome, young Skywalker. [Looking at cell phone] I have been expecting you.
  • The GPS in most cellphones is such a piece of garbage there is no problem with this. the Boost mobile phones have even crappier GPS than normal. I would say that the service will not work far more than it will be abused. A cellphone in your pocket get's ZERO Gps signal. Hell the GPS in my blackberry never shows a good location and it's sitting 1.5 inches away from my body, a friends boost phone with built in GPS app couldnt get a lock on 3 sattelites within a 25 minute period sitting still in a clear sk
    • I have to agree with this. The last time my Nextel 733 locked a GPS signal was April 12th 2006.
    • by planetmn (724378)
      I recently tried out VZNavigator on my new Verizon phone and was pleasantly surprised. Not as accurate as Hertz Neverlost is, but sitting in the center console of my car, it kept my position pretty well. It's all implementation. A quality antenna, and decent processing are required to do it right.

      -dave
    • by mikerich (120257)
      The GPS in most cellphones is such a piece of garbage there is no problem with this. the Boost mobile phones have even crappier GPS than normal. I would say that the service will not work far more than it will be abused. A cellphone in your pocket get's ZERO Gps signal. Hell the GPS in my blackberry never shows a good location and it's sitting 1.5 inches away from my body, a friends boost phone with built in GPS app couldnt get a lock on 3 sattelites within a 25 minute period sitting still in a clear sky c
    • by DrYak (748999)

      within a 25 minute period sitting still in a clear sky condition.

      Which are condition that are easily met in a openair music festival, and could be the best application for such a technology.
      The concert you were lisetening to with your girlfriend just finished, and you want to go back spend some time with the rest of your friends. At which concert are they ?

      The previous options were :
      - Try phoning them, and yell in the phone in hopes that you'll understand each other over the background noise.
      - Try writing S

  • by JonTurner (178845) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:30PM (#16874992) Journal
    Given a retailer's propensity to package together extra services, and the average user's lack of knowledge regarding their phone's capabilities, this new service seems ripe for abuse.


    Lack of knowledge about a phone? Get real. This is the under-25 crowd we're talking about. Do you think the 40+ year-old moms & dads are going to be the ones lining up for these products? And to a GenY'er, a phone is almost an extention of themselves. Ringtones, downloads, games, IM's, push-to-talk, voicemail, etc. are all an essential part of staying online.

    That being said, I do think that there is potential for abuse. Stalkers, for instance. Or college profs following up on students too "sick" to attend class. (but plenty well enough to catch a movie or go to the beach, instead!) Also, how long before this information is subpoenaed by attorneys. (For instance, in auto collision cases -- if client was at a bar for three hours prior to a fiery crash, that doesn't look good.)

    However, it could be a cool feature -- see who's nearby for a quick lunch meet-up. Finding your family/friends at an amusement park/mall/beach/etc.

    Like nearly all technologies, it's benign. It's up to the user to make it good or bad.
    • Lack of knowledge about a phone? Get real. This is the under-25 crowd we're talking about.
      You mean like the one that was, less than an hour ago, complaining to me about how much they hate getting a new phone, and trying to figure out all it can do and how to do it?
    • by Grishnakh (216268)
      Or college profs following up on students too "sick" to attend class. (but plenty well enough to catch a movie or go to the beach, instead!)

      Who puts their college professors on their phone's contact list? Students must have developed much closer relations with faculty since I've graduated.
  • Perfect for stalkers and suspicious spouses, now all they need is 30 seconds with your cell phone to enable this option and they own you.
  • How about if I have your number programmed into my phone and you don't have mine? Can I harvest cell#'s and 'war drive'?

    Even better do they realize we can triangulate someone closer then their resolution if I have 3 of these phones locating the same #? If all mappings are relative to 'Jack' (person on contact list) then if there are 3 other locator's that are given mappings relative to Jack then each mapping on the 3 phones will have different information to Jack's location.

    With this information com
  • Well... (Score:4, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:31PM (#16875024)
    When I call someone on a land line, I know exactly where they are.
  • ...who was imagining someone looking at the ground and squinting wondering how GPS was gonna help that guy locate his contact...

  • Why would I want to have my cell phone be able to find my contact lenses? That's going a little too far!!!
  • The phone company has to know where you are so they can route the call to the correct tower. Phone companies log everything.

    This service simply exposes the information to other cellphone users.

    The only way to avoid having location information recorded is to keep the phone turned off and have incoming calls go to a pager.
  • Seems odd - check up on the locations of people you can walk over to talk to in person. Or don't young people do that any more? Oh well there's no end to the stupid crap you can sell to the younger generation.
  • Surprise ! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Joebert (946227) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @04:42PM (#16875174) Homepage
    Alright, when Jim walks in the door, everyone turn on their phones !
  • I'm not sure i have ever seen a campus that couldn't fit within a 50 mile diameter circle.
  • Why stop at contacts; let's see all subscribers on a map!

    "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
  • What we really need is a cell phone that alerts you when your boss is within 15 feet from your cubicle.

    -- M.B.W.A. - Management By Walking Around

    • by dodobh (65811)
      You just need to replace his phone with one that has a proximity switch. Just ask the BOFH for help.
  • The GPS isn't going to work unless the person is outside and their phone has an unobstructed view of enough satalites long enough to get a fix. I don't see that happening all that often. Not to mention, I imagine most users will be turning off their GPS to save battery life.
    • by planetmn (724378)
      Well, define work? So lets say I walk into a bar, and lose sat coverage. The phone will still know it's last location where it had coverage, so it keeps my position as that. My friend is at another bar down the street and sees that I'm a block away, walks to the position and is in front of a bar. Chances are he's gonna know that I'm insid the bar.

      Is it 100% accurate 100% of the time. No, but that's not the point. If you're out on a friday night bar hopping, you might run into a friend.

      -dave
  • When the GSM and CDMA networks are opened as wholesale carriage with competition, like the long distance carriage and local origination/termination industries have been, then the playing field will finally be level. The beginning revolution in component telephone services integrated with familiar phones and contacts will finally include the mobile terminals ("phone") and all their advanced features, including the personal ones like presence. That will mean we'll have more choice over the features of our ter
    • by planetmn (724378)
      Well, considering that spectrum and capital costs are expensive, it's unlikely for the networks to be opened anytime soon. It's not like landline phones where a company was granted a monopoly and required right-of-way to lay down copper/coax/fiber/etc. The cellular companies are required to go out, locate and lease property for towers and antennae. Why should they be forced to open this up? They aren't being granted this land by the gov't for the "common good" they are investing in infrastructure to gro
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Because the "spectrum" is a lease the government offers to franchised operators from the public airwaves. That's the right of way. And spectrum licenses have an even more highly specified requirement for serving the public good than do landline rights of way.

        However, to date the spectrum operators have operated as cartels to maximize profits without the risk of competition, arbitrarily restrict consumer choice, and subvert the public interest. Sure, their costs are high, but their profits are so high that t
  • :%s/Can you hear me now?/We know where you are now./gc
  • And all over the world, parents, pedophiles, and policemen are cackling and rubbing their hands with glee.
  • Many her complain about phone GPS, but I recently had a verizon that had excellent service. It could even give door to door driving directions. It was expensive, but nonetheless it worked well.

    This could be handy but I would want to be able to turn it on for individuals, not the world. Also, 25 miles is worthless. 90% of my family and friends are always within 25 miles. It would be more useful if it said they were using the same tower or within 1-2 miles.

    My biggest fear is that they will charge for people t
  • Screw this negative spin! I think this idea is simply cool. I'm getting tired of naysaying "privacy advocates" painting progress in such dire colors. I'm personally excited to read this story. Our lives could be so much cooler if not for all the worriers and heeldraggers . . .
    • by Meostro (788797)
      Seconded!

      If any of you actually took the time to go and see what Loopt [loopt.com] is about or looked for more information, you would realize several things.

      For starters, this is OPT-IN ONLY [loopt.com]. You can't just see everyone's info, and you get to pick who you share your info with. You can choose who can and cannot see your info.

      Second, the point of this is to see when you're in the same three blocks as your friends. You may not be in the same restaurant or same building as your friends, but you would be surprised at how
  • as a 25-and-under, what i really want is the ability to find my friends inside a club or bar. it is impossible to yell 'the upstairs dance floor!' loud enough to be heard over music. what they need is an ad-hoc triangulation system since GPS doesn't work indoors.
  • .... The reason for this technology to exist comes down to three words:

    NEW REVENUE SOURCE
  • .. so that you can only accept someone as a contact/friend if they agree. And either party can remove the other party at any time. Just being able to plonk someone on the list doesn't bode well for anyone with a boyfriend/girlfriend-turned-stalker
  • Well that's nice, but why do I need this? It certainly has a nice wow factor to it. The only practical uses I see are for nefarious purposes. You know, stalkers, spying, making sure the bitch isn't messing around on you. But is this really an important feature, or a feature we want? While it might be nice to know that the wife/girlfriend is or is not cheating or lying about her whereabouts, do you really want the wife/girlfriend to know if YOU are cheating or lying about your whereabouts?

    Anyone hav
    • by planetmn (724378)
      It's friday night, you're downtown, and low and behold your friend is in the bar down the street from you. I wouldn't pay extra for it, but it might be nice to have.

      -dave
  • It's a thief's dream to get a hold of someone phone number, with some social engineering figure out his address and add them to his contact list.

    Now wait for the person to leave his home. Take the time you need, you know he's not in range.

    Reminds me of a movie called Louis 19 [imdb.com]. (EDtv [imdb.com] was the American adaptation of the same screenplay for the US market) Where the guy is followed 24/7 by a TV crew. One night he comes back and his apartment was broken into and everything was stolen.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legacy_(TNG_episode)/ [wikipedia.org]

    They all had implants that would light-up when rival gang members were near-by...

    Maybe Boost will roll that feature out next year...
  • I guess marketing will have to come out with a new slogan. "Where u at?!" will now be meaningless since, well, I can see "where you at."
  • by haunebu (16326) * on Thursday November 16, 2006 @06:21PM (#16876912) Homepage
    Helio [helio.com] is a joint venture between South Korea's SK Telecom [sktelecom.com] and EarthLink. They launched a slick new device (don't call it a phone =)) last week called the Drift [helio.com] that includes a hybrid GPS receiver (real GPS [wikipedia.org] and A-GPS [wikipedia.org]). It launched with a couple of GPS-enabled services: GPS-enabled Google maps [blogspot.com] and Buddy Beacon. The latter sounds pretty similar to Boost's solution, but takes a different approach to privacy.

    With Buddy Beacon, users must intentionally broadcast their location to their friends list. It does not constantly track your whereabouts and auto-broadcast your new locale. It's more like "find me here" than "i'm searching for so-and-so..."
  • Just to cut off some of the "OMG ST4LK3RZ" hype: this is an opt-in service. Customers have to actually sign up for it and (starting next year) pay for it. They can then invite people to join their buddy list and share their data. Other people can request to join, and you can always turn off the feature for everyone or just for specific people on your list.

    Also, this is for Sprint/Nextel's Boost Mobile pay-as-you-go division, not Sprint/Nextel contract phones.

    (Disclaimer: I work for Boost's tech support divi

  • Hi everyone, I run corporate development over at loopt and am in charge of all things safety, security and privacy related and I just wanted to clear up some major misconceptions reflected in the original posting and in some of the threads, and to reinforce some of the messages presented by Sam Altman, our CEO, in an earlier thread. 1)loopt is entirely opt-in. You must choose to get loopt, choose to become someone's friend, choose to share location with that person and then, and only then, would that pers
  • Check out mologogo.com. They wrote a simple little java app that does this exact same thing. Plus, it's free.

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