public access point database

Dylan McCall dylanmccall at
Wed Jul 4 18:34:37 CEST 2007

"selectively geonetworking with my friends."
That is a cool thought. Nay, a fantastic thought!
Let's say someone finds a really cool spot in the middle of nowhere. He
could pull out his OpenMoko-powered device, mark the location he is
currently in (being located by GPS). When he gets home, it could be made
available to his friends via some mystical but safe means. Planning becomes
easy with the locations marked as efficiently as the dates.
Produces a neat way to interact with people and makes a big leap connection
between technology and the actual physical world, which is being pushed
these days with projects like Surface. I guess I'm thinking along the lines
of that GeoCaching idea (which has many fans).

I think a central server is necessary only to read initial location data
from, such as famous landmarks in one's region or really big wifi access
points (since this is an open project that could be open for additions, of
course). Would probably be wise to not download locations around the whole
world if they are being downloaded instead of accessed directly on the web
service... there could be the local database and the web database, with the
web database accessed when possible.
However, an additional service could provide that instant geonetworking
idea. I suppose a central server specific to the task could do it, or email,
or quiet transfer between idle devices when nearby, or all of those!

An existing system like email strikes me as the most feasible for transfer
over the Internet, with it being possible to use many email (or email-like)
services for the same job. Perhaps that transferred data could be opened
automatically following some mystical security checks by a local email
program. Emails containing these locations and information could be dealt
with automatically and transparently, appearing with a message explaining
that some location (or schedule?) data has been sent, offering to add it to
the local database.
Easy to set up, too, with a trusted friends list just using email addresses
and maybe some type of personal identifier for security.

-Dylan McCall

On 7/3/07, Ryan Prior <piratehead at> wrote:
> That's not as far as it goes, either -- if the software required to set up
> and maintain a geolocation database is free and open source, then anybody
> who does not trust the central provider can set up a dedicated machine with
> any desired level of security and privacy measures taken.
> There are some who would not think twice about letting their location be
> known to those that they list as friends -- users of Twitter and similar
> services come to mind immediately. At the same time - thanks to The Magic of
> Free Software - corporate users, journalists, and privacy-minded individuals
> can keep close tabs on what happens to their information.
> On that note, nothing stops servers running the same sort of geolocation
> databases from networking, either. If I host such a database on my own
> trusted machine in order to increase my privacy, I could still export choice
> data points (once per day, or upon special request, for instance) to a
> public database where anybody on my friends list can get at them. That way,
> I can carefully restrict the ability of any third party to amass information
> about me, while still selectively geonetworking with my friends.
> On 7/4/07, Nick Johnson <arachnid at> wrote:
> >
> > On 7/4/07, Ryan Prior <piratehead at> wrote:
> > > You seem to imply that there is a technical infeasibility that cannot
> > be
> > > overcome. If the public point database were segregated by a UNIX-style
> >
> > > permissions system and connected to via SSH, wouldn't it be just about
> > as
> > > safe as any public file server or database? Files that are "shared"
> > can be
> > > accessed, files that are private stay private. A server-side daemon
> > could
> > > negotiate friends lists, proximity, and other details without ever
> > exposing
> > > private position data publicly.
> > >
> > > Am I missing something on the privacy front? Perhaps I just didn't
> > grok your
> > > example.
> >
> > SSL would be better suited - perhaps that's what you meant.
> >
> > The main issue, I think, is that it requires users to trust this
> > third-party database with some very personal information - possibly up
> > to and including an ongoing log of their location. Even if the site
> > itself is trustworthy, if it were compromised it could easily be
> > exposed.
> >
> > The obvious solution, of course, is to simply restrict your userbase
> > to those that are happy with the tradeoff.
> >
> > -Nick Johnson
> >
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