www.robkerr.com
www.robkerr.com

mobile development, cloud computing and building great software

Rob Kerr
Author

Addicted to coding since writing my first programs for the Commodore computers in the 1980s. Currently working as an independent contractor focused on native iOS development.

Share


Tags


Twitter


www.robkerr.com

What do iBeacons mean for app users?

Rob KerrRob Kerr

iBeacons (and Bluetooth beacons that don't follow Apple's "i" specification) are intriguing technologies that promise a new level of interaction between people and the (real, physical) world.

Beacon promoters hold them up as a technology to "add context" to mobile applications and make every user's experience better and more personalized.

Detractors point out that Beacons are a potentially intrusive technology that can reveal more about consumers than they would choose to if they fully understood what beacon technologies can do.

Sound familiar?

Does this sounds like a web browser cookie debate to you? Me too! And in some ways, Beacons and Cookies are similar.

The last point is a potentially tricky one. What's the social contract between a user of an app or web site and the provider of the property? It's possible to send a physical store visitor who uses our app a welcome push notification when they walk through the door. Should our app actually do that if the user didn't expect the app to do that beforehand? Will the user think that's "creepy"?

Let history be our guide

Unregulated use of cookies eventually prompted laws to regulate their use, predictably starting in the EU, and eventually spreading to the US (at least by convention here, even if not explicitly by legislation).

Whether such laws and practices were needed to prevent real problems with browser cookies is debatable, but the perception they were needed should instruct us on Beacons. Furthermore, there may be existing EU laws that already regulate how Beacons could be implemented--even if specific precedent has yet to be established.

Legal precedent and regulatory frameworks may not yet have caught up with Beacons (especially in the more freewheeling US). It may not (yet) be illegal to use Beacons in a way that end-users might find alarming or a breach of their trust. But let history assure us that privacy limits will closely follow the inevitable wide-scale deployment of Beacons.

Fortunately, we've all been to this rodeo before, and we already know what to do. Using cookies as a precedent, we already know where the limits are, and the "Golden Rule" is probably the right guide to use where legal frameworks and regulation are ambiguous.

UX
UX
Rob Kerr
Author

Rob Kerr

Addicted to coding since writing my first programs for the Commodore computers in the 1980s. Currently working as an independent contractor focused on native iOS development.

Comments