Geotags Or Geospam?
By Mike Masnick, Thu Feb 10 01:45:00 GMT 2005

Siemens is the latest company to talk up the possibilities of geotagging applications, but the idea already has some worried about how the technology is likely to be abused.


There are a number of different implementations of so-called "geotags," which let users get information on their mobile devices based on their location. There are plenty of innovative ways this technology can be used. Already, there are "virtual" tours that use the technology -- sometimes allowing individuals to add their own observations, trivia or questions to the location as well.

With all that in mind, it didn't seem all that exciting to find out that yet another effort at geotagging was underway (this time from Siemens). However, some people are a little worried about the way this particular implementation is being pitched. Beyond being used for virtual tours or general tagging, Siemens is specifically suggesting it can be used for advertising. While Siemens admits that this could lead to some form of geotag spam, the solution is simple: you can set your device to a "no advertisements" mode when you don't feel like shopping and a "spam me, baby" (or something like that) mode when you do feel like shopping.

This binary spam-me/don't-spam-me set up has some people worried -- and rightfully so. Given the option, most people are going to switch out of advertising mode, and never turn it back on. In doing so, they may be marginalizing what could be a very useful technology for blurring the borders between the analog world and the digital one. For it to work right, it simply cannot be intrusive, and needs to be more pull, than push. Building in customization and granularity in terms of letting people tell the tags what they want to see is going to be key. The basic technology for geotagging makes sense. It may face an empty room problem right now, but as it gets used, the graffiti and clutter problem becomes a bigger issue. At that point, it's no longer going to be about the technology of geotagging, but technology to help filter out geotagging. People might as well get started on that aspect now, figuring out ways to better designate tags so people only see what they want. Otherwise, people are going to view geotags as geospam, and the entire technology won't go very far at all.