Don’t get app-athetic: Seamless, frictionless experiences have plenty of privacy implications

seamWe’ve been trying to pinpoint what’s happening with lifestyle and social apps for awhile now. It all started when Color launched. The augmented reality app was the first of its kind; the first to totally connect our digital and real lives in a relatively seamless, visual, instantly gratifying way. It had plenty of faults – so many that it’s seriously scaled back into an insta-video Facebook application (which has its own interesting uses, but simply isn’t as cool).

While the original app had a short shelf-life, its idea lives on. A number of recently launched apps are promoting themselves as focused on serendipity, on seamless experiences. Highlight is a location app that reads your phone’s GPS data and then automatically finds friends nearby so you can “happen” to meet up. Evertale is a soon-coming social network that will automatically create a digital timeline based on your mobile activity. HipGeo creates a virtual, visual log of your travels by accessing your GPS and your photo album.

It all sounds very convenient: leveraging the data we make in more creative ways than we are doing ourselves. But is this lifestreaming or laziness? Are we enjoying a virtual reality in addition to an active one, or a passive one?

At the same time that this is all happening, we’ve been dogged by reports of developers and platforms violating privacy standards. Today the New York Times reported that app developers say iOS devices are treating photos and videos much like they’d been dealing with address books up until recently. “After a user allows an application on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to have access to location information, the app can copy the user’s entire photo library, without any further notification or warning.”

The sacrifice we’re making in order to use apps rears its ugly head yet again. While it’s unknown whether any specific apps are doing this, we all assumed they weren’t with contact lists — and that didn’t go down well.

On one hand, there’s something very interesting about the idea of doing something with all that data we’re making – the check-ins, photos, or meals made, etcetera. Still, we aren’t the ones actually doing anything with it; that task is being shipped over to someone (or rather, something) else. The user is but the beginning of the process.

So where is the impetus coming from? Is it because we’re too apathetic to apply our own data to a more interesting means – or because we’re so invested in it we need to see what it can do?

Facebook was one of the first to introduce this idea of “frictionless” applications. When it announced its Open Graph and Timeline apps back at f8, we all heard Facebook would soon boast a bevy of “verb apps” that would allow us to more aptly show what we do and what we’ve done. The caveat being, of course, that we are largely foregoing the permissions screen as we previously knew it.

Now we’ve all been warned to kingdom come about the privacy implications of the Open Graph, as well as about location-reading apps. And everyone’s been a watch dog when it comes to them, but we can’t let our guards down. The very idea behind seamless, serendipitous, frictionless applications is that we make it easier to access our data.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m intrigued by seamless apps and the products and possibilities they could create, and those that have launched are ahead of the curve. The mobile world specifically is soon to see a rash of them, and perhaps we’d be wise to make certain platforms are holding developers accountable from the onset – not after the fact. 

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: AI-powered cat toys, wallets, and food containers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Find out how to keep tabs on your phone with these helpful tracking tips

Need to keep tabs on the location of your cell phone or smartphone? Consult this guide for tips and tricks on how to track a phone, whether you're currently rocking Android, iOS, or something more old-school.
Mobile

Need a do-over? Here's how to factory reset an iPhone, from XS on down

Resetting an iPhone can alleviate all sorts of software woes, and wipe away personal data should you sell your device or give it to someone else. Here's how to factory reset an iPhone from within iOS or iTunes.
Product Review

The all-new Palm wants to be many things, but it’s really just a tiny smartphone

The all-new Palm is here, and it’s tinier than ever. Exclusive to Verizon, it syncs to your primary smartphone and acts as a secondary device -- with features to help you disconnect from technology. But at $350, is it worth the high price…
Photography

Camera shootout! Testing the latest Pixel, iPhone, and Galaxy Note in real life

Which takes the best photos, the Pixel 3 XL, iPhone XS Max, Galaxy Note 9, or Pixel 2 XL? We put the cameras on all these top-notch phones through their paces to see which performs best in the real world, from low light to portrait mode…
Mobile

Sams's Club offers $100 gift cards for iPhone XR pre-orders

After months of rumors and speculation, Apple has finally taken the wraps off of the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Now that the phones are out, you might be wondering how you can get them for yourself.
Product Review

Amazon’s child-friendly tablet is the complete package

Kids are tough on electronics and it’s difficult to police screen time and manage what they’re doing. The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition could be the affordable answer to your prayers, with a rugged case and worry-free warranty.
Mobile

It’s about time! A USB-C magnetic charger for the Apple Watch has finally arrived

While most of the buzz surrounding Apple has been about the iPhone XR, the company also introduced a new Apple Watch accessory. Starting October 24, a USB-C magnetic charger will be available for purchase.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.
Mobile

Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs. P20 Pro: Which 2018 Huawei flagship is best for you?

If you're tempted by Huawei's latest flagship, the Mate 20 Pro, but you're uncertain how it differs from the P20 Pro which Huawei released earlier this year, then we have you covered. Find out exactly what sets these two phones apart.
Product Review

Simple, smart, and affordable, Google’s USB-C earbuds are a must-buy

Google’s follow-up to its wireless Pixel Buds are the wired Google Pixel USB-C earbuds. It’s the simpler route, but the earbuds are still smart, deliver good sound, and -- best of all -- they’re affordable.
Mobile

Strapped after your latest smartphone purchase? Check out our favorite MVNOs

Looking to switch from a major carrier to something a little more affordable? Luckily, there are a ton of great MVNO options to choose from. Check out our guide to the best MVNOs, from Boost Mobile to Google Project Fi.
Mobile

How to take great photos with the iPhone XS, Apple’s finest camera phone yet

The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max feature the best cameras yet seen on an Apple smartphone, ready for you to get out and take great photos. Here's our guide to help ensure each shot you take is a winner.
Mobile

If you're light on memory, these are the best lite apps for Android and iOS

Looking to save data, storage, and reduce performance issues? Lite apps and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are the best options. Here's our roundup of lite apps and PWAs for all the most popular apps on the market.