#neuland is where you are

This month I was given the opportunity to speak at Webmontag Frankfurt.
Webmontag is a monthly event that brings together a group of about 200 people interested in web and technology related topics. The guest have various backgrounds. They are developers, founders, entrepreneurs, venture capitalist, researchers, web pioneers, bloggers, podcasters, designers, and others.

My talk was about how location is embedded into everyday activities of a smart phone user and what that all means in the light of the recent NSA and Prism related news. I was given the last 15 minutes of an already packed and very interesting agenda, so I decided to keep things a little lighter and entertaining.

Here are the slides, with an English transcript. The original talk was in German and you can watch the video at the very end of this post or follow the link now over to Vimeo.

#neuland is where you are.

[Neuland, German for “virgin territory,” is a term used by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to describe the current state of the Internet during a joint press conference with President Barack Obama in Berlin on June 19th, 2013. During the address, Chancellor Merkel was asked to comment on the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance scandal. Chancellor Merkel’s remark was instantly met by derisive comments on Twitter, with many German Internet users ridiculing her use of the term “neuland” as being out of touch with the progress that has been made in the field. Source: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/neuland%5D

Hello, my name is Philip Hubertus …

In my professional life I work with digital map data and how to used them to build web service for location based services.
I’m the product manager for the Geocoder service at HERE. Me and the Geocoder team are based in Schwalbach, just north of Frankfurt, and we are a Nokia business.

And in my private life I do wonder where my loved ones are at any given moment and if they are alright. You could say I can feel the NSA needs.
But I have a far larger interest in ensuring not everyone can check on the whereabouts of my loved ones.

I brought a few examples with me today on how location based services are used in Neuland.
And I also brought a few recommendation on what to watch out for when you don’t want to share your location or the one of your home to anyone.

So to kick things off, I have a question:
Did anyone of you went to a swimming lake this past weekend?
Alright. And who went to the Neulaender swimming lake?

Or did you just chill out? No smoking! Or a BBQ?

You get it. I did search for Neuland in our digital maps. And I found a few. 15 in total. Most of them in northern Germany. But also three in Paraguay.

As the title said. Neuland is where you are.
So here is a location tracking device the FBI uses. It is not as small as the usual spy movie suggests, is it?

And here are a few of the location tracking devices the NSA is using.
I think you are aware that apps offering local information get your position first, then send that position over the data connection.

Usually this is communicated clearly.
Here is how this looks like on Android …

… on iOS …

…, and on Windows Phone.

Apps should ask you during installation and/or use whether they want to access your location. There are some apps out there where this doesn’t make sense and then there are others where it makes sense.

I decided against installing the World of Red Bull app, because why do they need my location? I couldn’t see that.

But the German railway app here helps me find the best trains from where I am right now, so giving them my location is just fine for me.

So all this leads to the paradox that when you want to ensure your phone doesn’t send any information out, you can now buy the OFF Pocket. It’s $85 and the funding is in full swing for this on Kickstarter.

Now let’s take a look at how easy it is to find out where someone is at home.
This for example is Nelly’s home.

Be aware that photos you take with your smartphone usually include positioning data. And this data is uploaded with the image when you share that. That is how easy it is to find out where you were at what time. Where you live, go to work, and have fun.

Here you can see the positioning meta data. The coordinates are those of the Brotfabrik where we are right now.

And here we are together – in Neuland.
Patrick Lenz may not be using a smart phone for his shots, as you can also easily actively place photos onto a map.

Using Flickr, you can set a privacy zone in which your uploaded photos don’t expose their location to the public.

And now I have a little story for you from the far away country of China.

Coca-Cola and 20 other companies were investigated by Chinese officials for illegally mapping the country. What happened? The position of the trucks delivering Coca-Cola are monitored. Not because the beverage is of high value, but because this is standard practice in logistics these days, keeping tabs on the vehicles and deliveries. And as Coca-Cola is enjoyed in Chinese military installations too, the government saw the need to investigate.

So this is how things are in Neuland.

Now I want to introduce someone to you that can probably best attest to how it feels when the FBI wants to know where you are.

This is Hasan Elahi.

He was born in Bangladesh and raised in New York. Today he is a Professor for arts and director of the Digital Cultures and Creativity program at the University of Maryland.

He somehow ended up on the FBI’s suspect list. But is not a terrorist and he didn’t wanted to go on holidays to Guantanamo. So he decided to voluntarily tell the FBI where he is at any given time. And so since over 10 years he is sharing pictures, information, and his position using his mobile phone on his website.

This is where Hasan Elahi is right now – checking his website.

And these are the hotel beds he slept in.

The taco he ate at 4 pm.

And because the FBI wants to know about his business, he takes photos of where he does his business.

Thank you!

In case you want to take a photo right now, for the ladies turn left up the stairs and the men’s is on the right before the bar.

Here is the video from the event – in German.

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