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More on Blyncsy And Privacy

Related to a previous piece on cell phone monitoring for traffic, a reader asked for a picture of the Blyncsy sensor (the device tracking your cell phone) and where they were located. I have put those at the bottom of this post.

I’m glad there is some interest on this topic. Given that, I think there is a little more to say about Blyncsy and privacy. There is always a tradeoff with privacy. I use Gmail every day and per the terms of the user agreement that gives Google the right to use my information to sell to advertisers. As they say, I AM THE PRODUCT being sold. I don’t like the sound of that but with Gmail I get paid back by having free email that runs virtually 100% of the time. I have traded privacy for convenience.

With Blyncsy, again I AM THE PRODUCT being sold. In this case Blyncsy is selling me to Park City (and maybe eventually Vail and Deer Valley). They know where I am and sell that data to Park City. Yet unlike Gmail I don’t know that I value the tradeoff.  In the case of Gmail, they know who emails me and the topic of emails and in return I get a great service. In the case of Blyncsy, they know where I go and I get…I’m not exactly sure .. maybe comfort knowing that Park City someday will use a system like this to shorten my drive time on a POW day…somehow? Perhaps more importantly, I have concerns over the business transaction. Park City paid $15,000 for this pilot yet I don’t trust the information is going to be accurate or even work.

When I visited with Mark Pittman, CEO of Blyncsy, I asked a question from a citizen about how they handle people riding buses (they don’t currently filter out bus rides according to Mark). If you think about it, there are up to 100 people on a bus headed from Kimball Junction to Main Street. If Blyncsy is just tracking signals, does that look like 100 cars headed to Main Street?If I’m driving down Kearns with my wife and kids, the signals produced from my car would be my iPhone, my wife’s phone, the iPad in my bag, my car’s bluetooth signal, and my Pebble watch. Is that 1 car impacting traffic on Main or is that 5 cars? Perhaps they have that problem figured out and managed, but it didn’t sound like it.

So, if I’m trading my privacy to FIX traffic problems in Park City, I may be in favor of it. If I’m trading my privacy for a system that will provide little benefit to me, then why would I ever do that? Perhaps more importantly, you have to realize that I didn’t trade my privacy. Park City traded my privacy. Ugggh.

Let me interrupt to say that I love new technology. Conceptually, I like the idea of a small startup working on a  problem to help transportation issues. I told Blyncsy’s CEO that I thought technically what they were doing was very cool. Yet, in the real world, I wish they would have found a different way to fix transportation.

I’m left feeling a little violated. Park City traded my right to privacy for a “cool” software tool that seems to have giant hurdles before it will actually provide value. I know I can opt out, but that leaves me both trusting the company that they follow through on the opt out and forcing me to opt out so my privacy isn’t violated.

In today’s world, maintaining privacy is all about trade offs, but I have a hard time understanding what I am actually getting here.

The sensor that tracks you:


Where those sensors are:
Note: There are only 15 monitors listed on this image. There should be 8 others somewhere.


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