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AT&T Begins Service to Text Users in Certain Locations

  • On March 1, 2011


According to the New York Times, AT&T is going to launch a text-message service to send SMS messages to customers in certain locations.

Um, hell no!

It’s called “ShopAlerts” and is designed to allow “brand-partners” (i.e. HP, Kmart, JetBlue, S.C. Johnson, etc.) to send advertisements and coupons to customers who happen to be in range of the “geo-fence” (a pre-defined geographic area around a particular place) for that brand.

The service is opt-in, which makes it a little less about. The troubling thing is it is just another way for people to give up their privacy.

If you allow a service to track when you are *in* a particular place, then by default it will also know when you are *not in* that place. Checking in on Foursquare should be enough of a trigger to send these kinds of advertisements – it shouldn’t be based on a passive location awareness.

In fairness, JetBlue does intend to use their JetBlue Go Places mobile app to offer their program’s points via check-in. According to the article, there is no mention of similar action-requirements. S.C. Johnson intends to put a geo-fence around Wal-Mart to [passively] offer their discounts.

It all sounds eerily similar to the Minority Report’s retina scanners in the shopping malls. Let’s hope the day never comes when you can walk past an adult novelty shop and the on-screen display asks how that sex toy you bought 2 weeks ago has worked out for you. This technology, if extrapolated to track purchases as a response to the ad, combined with the already-present knowledge of your receipt’s items would surely enable such a world.

Don’t opt-in. It’s already easy enough to track you, without making it constantly available.


  1. Scott

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