Paul Carney

Working hard to make things simple

Collecting and Sharing Data is a Good Thing

It seems that four of our illustrious US Sentators – Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Tom Udall (D-NM), feel that citizens collecting data and sharing it with each other is wrong. And that any company helping must be stopped.

In their letter to RIM, Apple and Google, they asked the companies to remove and stop selling apps that allowed people to collect traffic information related to law enforcement checkpoints. In particular, they cited that DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoints were being tracked in real-time and shared with the app customers.

Why should a Senator have the power to tell a company what app they can or cannot sell based on the vague premise that a person can use the app to do something that they do not approve of? It is similar to telling the phone company to not allow phone calls in case someone is planning a takeover of another company through board elections. And besides, they failed to list the specific apps by name, indicating that their letter might just be a knee-jerk reaction to letters they are receiving from “concerned citizens”.

Also, keep in mind that the users were not doing anything illegal. There are dozens of applications that customers use each day to help others stay up-to-date with the latest traffic and congestion information. Law enforcement and city officials are even helping the citizens so that they stay aware of traffic issues to avoid congestion and lower car emissions. In one example, city officials from Eugene, Oregon collaborated with an app company to help citizens track traffic-light situations to avoid backups.

ACT, an organization focused on the needs of small business innovators from around the world, describes in better detail why this activity is misguided. The government should not be allowed to tell businesses, on a wholesale and vague level, what types of apps they can and cannot sell if there are no laws being broken.

In short: apps that allow people to share information should not be banned by the US Government. This opens the door to the good Senators requesting that people avoid gathering for protests by using Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places. Please use your voice to condemn this type of interference before it goes too far.

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