Anil Dash: What Is Public? (@medium)

Many smartphone users don’t realize that the photos they take often include the user’s geographic location hidden in the image. A regular user of a smartphone photo-sharing app who thinks she’s merely revealing her fondness for latte art may not realize that she’s providing a clear map of her exact location, stamped with the date and time accurate down to the second. By the standards of contemporary tech and media companies, displaying this information to the world in the form of “Here is a map showing where this person is every Tuesday at 9am ” is a perfectly acceptable thing to publish about hundreds of millions of people, without their consent, because these companies consider this information public.

When people, especially those in marginalized communities, have conversations with one another online, the fact that it’s possible to view those conversations might make them “public” by some definition. But certainly we can’t concede that every utterance we make in the presence of others is automatically fodder for aggregation and monetization by media and tech companies, without our consent or even the opportunity for remuneration. 

A Gossip App Brought My High School to a Halt (@NYMag)

Disturbing stuff but unsurprising. What does it mean though? Should these platforms not be built? Should platform providers be more strict about policing anonymous social networks? Should Apple and Google ban them altogether from the App Store and Google Play? Certainly both companies have more power to police these kinds of things in a walled garden as opposed to the web, where these kinds of things used to manifest. (Formspring, as an example.)

I think back to Evan Williams’ quote on building a successful software company:

We often think of the internet enables you to do new things. But people just want to do the same things they’ve always done.

And kids (teenagers particularly) have, for the most part, always been cruel and lacking in the empathy department. Give them tools to help facilitate that cruelness and things like this happen.

Whisper Raising Another $30 Million at $200 Million Valuation (@recode)

I know ephemerality is the trend in mobile-social at the moment and there are plenty of reasons to believe it’ll stick around so long as it remains an effective way of reducing our digital footprint. But I don’t think either Whisper or Secret are going to scale into the kind of growth companies that justify these valuations; although at 95 times the purchase price of WhatsApp, perhaps it’s just about where it should be, if we’re to take that as the new litmus test.

In any case, the concept of the anonymous social network has lived in the desktop world for years in the form of PostSecret and many others. They’ll have their share of users and engagement among those users, I imagine, will be quite high. But I also think these kinds of networks have a limit to how high they can grow precisely because their anonymity limits their utility: it’s hard to make any kind of deep, social connections as anonymous nodes talking to one another about things you wouldn’t talk about with your friends.

The Tencent connection here with Whisper is interesting though.

Sources added that it is still possible that Tencent might add another $15 million to the round, said a source, presumably increasing the valuation.

Through a Face Scanner Darkly (@NewYorker)

Harrowing privacy concerns have been a staple of Glass since it came into being. There are going to be people who avoid it simply because of matters like this. Hard to blame them. It doesn’t help that the founders of the app aim to make this opt-in by default. Conversely, something like this really would be helpful for networking in the context of big events. For years, startups have been trying to find something that would kill the business card. This could potentially do it. But do the shady use cases outweigh the useful?