Mohammad Naghavi

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Forgotten land: Private location services vs. public ones

The amount of location aware services has been rising during last years like an explosion. From localized search results up to many other astonishing virtual reality games and augmented reality applications.

Sometimes this a good question to look back at the sources of data and to see who and how these services are built up. This is absolutely not the thing that I want to go into its details here and now, but there are some things that we have to be careful about them. One of these most important things is where the source of data is and who has access to it?

It is easy to get used to something and forget how insecure it can be. Or to be more honest how insecure it is, but we forgot it. An easy example can be this location related services. Right now if you look at the providers and holders of such information you will only see big guys who hold these info in their hands and believe me they keep holding it very strongly. You may only use their systems but you may never ever cross their red lines: you are not allowed to keep that data, you may not try to access them more than they want to allow you and and and.

Just look where we are standing, one of the most important information in the world is obtained by you as end user, you pay for a mobile phone, you pay for the internet but they are gathering data and keeping hold to it! And they will let you consume only the amount that they like. Unfortunately there is no open-manner competitor in this area which can be even compared to them when it comes to the amount of data in hand. Just as a sample, the largest private held database of cellular locations has over 42 million records compared to the best open database which is only 2 million records! And this is only about private one which reports its capacity, the bigger ones even don’t bother themselves reporting it!

Only imagine this is the data gathered from your device bought by you payed for by you and they are keeping the data. So nothing comes for free, the browser you keep using, the phone you have in hand, many other devices which you own are gathering this data and many other that we don’t know every second.

Here I want to clear something, I cant ask anybody to stop using these things, this is something we shaped a long time ago and needs much more time and planning to get out of it, but we may take some decisions to make it right some where in future.

Everything I said was to ask you help form one of the Mozilla’s projects, an open database for location services, this is only installing an application and letting it run some time, even not always. This a conscious decision you can make compared to the ones built deep into the OS of your phone or your browser or …

I want to sincerly ask you to help Mozilla form an open competitor in front of the commercial ones which may not be available any more tomorrow. More info can be found here:

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