In the next few years, we will pay much higher price for clothes integrated with wearable electronics than just a certain amount of money. The hidden cost will include the decline of our privacy, as apparel companies will join IT corporations that persistently collect and analyze data about our location, pulse and body temperature.
On January 30th, 2015 Facebook rolled out its new Data Use Policy and Terms of Service. At the request of the Belgian Privacy Commission, Facebook’s revised policies and terms were extensively analyzed by researchers from KU Leuven and Vrije universities and elaborated on the comprehensive report. According to the publication, „Facebook collects location data in order to allow users to share their location with peers. However, this data may also be re-used to target advertising. (…) There are no further (in-app) settings, for example, allowing the individual to authorize location sharing for one purpose but decline it for other purposes. (…) The only way to stop the Facebook mobile app from accessing location data on one’s smartphone is to do so at the level of the mobile operating system”. All or nothing, but frankly speaking, it is not a surprising discovery.
However, as we can read further in the report, „even when a user decides to turn off Facebook’s access to location data, this still does not prevent Facebook from collecting location data via other means. Pictures taken with smartphones, for example, often contain location information as metadata. As a result, location data may be shared indirectly when uploading pictures to Facebook. Combined with features such as facial recognition, it is fairly easy to pinpoint the location of specific individuals to specific locations in time”. Furthermore, comparing Facebook’s Data Use Policy from 2013 and 2015, in the new version of DUP „there is no longer any mention of limiting the storage or use of location data to the time necessary to provide a service”.
Since location data is collected even without our explicit consent and stored without any limits, maybe we should try to look for some benefits for ourselves from this situation? Maybe location data may bring some value not only to social networks and advertisers? Such opinion is given by three design students who due to their young age and place of residence are not familiar with the world without the Internet.
A group of Media Interaction Design students from Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences – Heike Gabel, Robert Schnüll and Niklas Thyen – noticed that when someone receives a text message via Facebook Messenger, usually do not bother (unlike Facebook itself and advertisers) which place the message was sent from. And even if a recipient checks the location of the sender on Messenger app – it is possible by swiping left the text – soon he or she forgets about this allegedly worthless data.
The project called Remember the Warm Times changes the situation described above and make valuable for the recipient to save location data of the sender. The project is far more advanced and sophisticated than simple adding pins on a map. In this case, a digital communication becomes a physical interaction.
Designers made the assumption that the most positive feedback a person could get is a warm feeling based on a primal instinct. Guided by this idea, they designed and developed a scarf that generates a warm feedback (literally – it heats up) when is located at certain places. Which places can be called hotspots? Firstly, whenever someone sends you something nice via Facebook Messenger, the app saves data about his or her location. You will feel a heat on your neck each time you cross this place. Secondly, you can choose in advance „warm zones” for people you care about. For example, by choosing the airport, you set a nice and subtle way to say „goodbye” or „welcome home” to someone you love before his or her departure or just after arrival. Naturally, this person must wear the Remember the Warm Times scarf to feel the warm message.
Besides the scarf, there is also the mobile app. In fact, it works as a brain of the system. It collects, analyze and displays data, filters the incoming content, compare it with the current GPS position, and at the right location it wirelessly activates the heater sewn into the middle of the scarf.
Remember the Warm Times is a prototype made as a winter semester 2014/2015 project at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. I found it and talk to one of its designer Robert Schnüll at the venue of the DMY International Design Festival that took place in Berlin from 11th to 14th of June 2015. If you have any questions concerning this project, you can contact the group by sending them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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