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Today's consumer electronics feature marvelous capabilities. From smartphones to in-car navigators to media players, all benefit from advances in underlying components such as RAM, GPS chips, and fast communications networks. Buddy-mapping applications, now possible and deployed on smartphones and personal navigation systems, are a meld of communications, instant messaging, location-aware service, and map mash-up. These kinds of applications can be incredibly useful and fun; at the same time, their feature creep can threaten user privacy. For example, the ability to map all buddies on a mobile smartphone via a mobile buddymapping application (e.g., Google Latitude) also makes it necessary to manage one's visibility with respect to a large number of buddies. As we explain in this article, this is of key importance since once one is seen on another's map, one's intent can sometimes be inferred; and even if intent is not something one is hiding per se, it is still desirable to know "Who can see me now?" and to be forewarned of impending visibility. Today's consumer communications applications and devices do not handle these requirements well. This article presents middleware architecture and methodology that can help give users of buddy-mapping services greater awareness of who is about to see them before they are actually seen.
Date of Publication: June 2010