Apple's iOS 7 inadvertently reveals the depth of behavioral and demographic data that the Cupertino company could be amassing on its customers, and you might learn something new about your neighbors.
The iOS 7 App Store's "Popular Near Me" option uses geolocation to recommend programs that are hot with locals. The results can be both mundane and surprising. Travels guides and fitness applications were the top picks near Central Park; my apartment is near Lincoln Center and some schools, so apps for John Jay and Julliard students were more prolific (along with some artifacts leftover from fashion week).
That's where it started to become more interesting. People in my area shop online - a lot. DealMoon, a listing of discounted products and the eBay Now delivery service were also popular. People by 57th and Park were New York subway time app aficionados, read BusinessWeek, watch sports in Hebrew, were up-to-date on breaking financial news, travel on British Airways and use the Citi Bike bike sharing program. It used to be that marketers could only target people by their zip code; it's now possible to segment us based upon where we work, live, and play.
Marketers will soon have much more complete information about our lifestyles as we share about ourselves. The Apple Maps update asked me if I wanted to share with Apple details about where I most commonly am. I'd imagine that Google Now does that too, and soon devices will even be able to determine your mood.
I still haven't shared the "surprising" part about today's field tests. People who work at BlackRock, the financial management company, are heavy users of an app that lists company events, newsies, and...wait for it... an app that takes sneaky pictures. Somebody call the HR department - BlackRock's got shenanigans.
All of this begs the question of what's the huge deal about the NSA's spying when people opt in to allow the private sector to spy on us even more so? Using a cloud service? Providers control the server logs and know everything that you click.
It appears that consumers are very willing to trade their online privacy for convenience and perks. It's about time to debate whether that's what we really want.