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The GPS trade-off: Get lost less often, but lose privacy

Kai Ryssdal Apr 10, 2014
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In the age of Google Maps, Siri, and GPS, it is hard to get lost.

“You can if you really, really work at it,” says Hiawatha Bray, technology reporter at the Boston Globe and author of “You are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves.”

“The whole idea of being able to navigate through the world with a higher degree of reliability is one of the most challenging technical problems the human race has ever faced, and it’s taken us centuries to beat it.”

But this technological achievement has come at a price, says Bray: Privacy.

Bray says many technologies weren’t designed to track people, but some companies — and governments — are using it to do just that. Cell phones and license plate scanners have new, unforseen second purposes. Many cities regularly scan the license plates of vehicles driving their streets.

“There’s no limit right now, under law, [on] how long you can keep those records,” Bray says. “I don’t want to get lost, I just don’t want others to constantly track my location.”

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