Thursday, February 05, 2009

Talk of the Steamie

There is a Glaswegian phrase "Talk of the Steamie": this refers to the chatter that people (almost exclusively women) would have while washing their clothes in a communal wash room. As you may surmise, the expression dates from the time before individual washing machines in the average home were commonplace. I always think that the Web is the ultimate steamie: providing a truly global forum where ideas and opinions can spread with breathtaking rapidity.

One of the things that is the talk of the steamie just now is Google Latitude. I have always admired Google's relentless innovation. I love Google Mail, Google Calendar, and Google Earth. However, I'm not so sure about Google Latitude. People in the UK, it seems to me, are monitored to an increasing and disturbing degree. I believe there is a higher number of CCT cameras in the UK per head of population than practically anywhere else in the World. The so-called War on Terror has led the government to propose that they should be able to read every e-mail and text message that we send, and have access to details of every web page that we visit. Although, I don't feel I've got anything to hide, my instinct is to oppose stubbornly these creeping infringements of our civil liberties. I can't really imagine why anybody would want to allow themselves to be tracked using Google latitude and it seems I am not the only one to have concerns about its privacy implications.

Clearly, use of this application is voluntary, but if it becomes widely used I would be concerned that systems like this could develop into yet another way for Big Brother to watch us.