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iPhone Apps and our Fascination with Other People’s Information

Highlight is part of an emerging trend of apps for smartphones that reveals information you have chosen with anyone else with the same app that is in close proximity to you. Other so called social apps include Sonar, Glancee, Kismet, and Banjo.

Anyone who uses Facebook knows some people share way too much personal information that they mistakenly think is limited to their chosen friends. Savvy social media users know better and never record anything about themselves they wouldn’t be comfortable with the whole world knowing. Hopefully users of apps like Highlight will be as discreet as well.

Highlight CEO Paul Davison expects the app to help people make connections in small towns and airports. When you engage the app, it provides notifications of other Highlight users within about a football field-sized area of your location.

When the app spots another Highlight user within 100 yards it offers you a chance to check out their profile. From their profile you can then see profile photos, check out mutual friends and interests, and locate them on a map that shows their recent location. The closer a person is, and the more interests, friends or history you have in common, the more likely you’ll be notified of their presence.

Should a Highlight user sitting four rows down from you in Yankee Stadium catch your attention, you can send them a direct message, or choose to “highlight” them. You are also notified if someone highlights you or when a Facebook friend joins Highlight.

To use Highlight on your iPhone you must first log into Facebook. According to Davison, this helps ensure people are who they say they are and also lets you see the friends users have in common. You can make your profile visible to everyone on Highlight or to friends of friends only.

There are privacy features such as being able to pause the app, making you invisible to other Highlight users, and turning off location services. You still receive notifications, and the next time you launch the app, you’re automatically unpaused. The only way to completely pause the app is to remove it from your phone.

Davison believes that in the future apps like Highlight will provide a “sixth sense,” where we’ll know everything about everyone we come across. That prospect is thrilling to some and just plain troubling to others. Our culture’s addiction to instant communication has already seen many victims: students unaware that schools were watching their home activities through their laptops, identity theft, and a host of other problems.

As technology rockets ahead at break neck speed, the biggest problem is keeping up with it—not in using it, but in responding to unexpected challenges from it. Perhaps Tech-Wars are not just a thing of science fiction fancy. Only time will tell.

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