Color (color.com) is the name of both a startup company and its signature product, an iPhone application (coming soon to Android) that allows you to view and share photos with people who happen to be physically near you. For example, if you were at Bonnaroo, or the fair, you could view photos from others -- complete strangers -- attending the same event. They, of course, could view your photos of the event as well.
Color has become notorious for several different reasons. One, it's reported to have attracted $41 million in investment start-up money from two venture capital firms. That's a huge investment for a relatively-new and relatively-limited application. In fact, many reports of the investment noted that there are limited uses for Color. It doesn't function at all unless you're in an area where other Color users happen to be. For this reason alone, unless it becomes extremely popular, it will probably be more useful to people who spend a lot of time in the city than to residents of outlying areas.
But the app has also drawn fire from privacy advocates. Apparently, the app uses a variety of methods to determine where you are and what other photos to show you. You might expect that a location-based app would access your iPhone's GPS feature, and it does. But it also accesses the microphone and the camera -- for example, if you were at Bonnaroo it would use audio cues to determine whether you were at one stage or another, and show you photos from other users listening to the same band.
Some observers aren't happy about that, saying that Color's installation process doesn't make it clear enough that the app may be using your camera and your microphone. The podcast This Week In Tech (twit.tv) had a great discussion on the issue last weekend, including a disagreement between Leo Laporte and one of his panelists. Both are worried about increasing risks to privacy; where they differed is on whether we should be more worried about the government or private corporations spying on us.
But the new technological age has changed the way some people think about privacy, and some are more bothered by any particular privacy issue than others.
AT&T, which had long offered only the relatively-slow EDGE data service for mobile phone users in Shelbyville, has turned on higher-speed service -- at least 3G, the fastest my phone can receive, and possibly faster, according to one commenter on my Times-Gazette blog. An AT&T spokeswoman confirmed that access points in Shelbyville have been upgraded but provided few specifics, since the company wants to make the big announcement at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the near future.
Many journalists and commenters have said AT&T may be required to roll out high-speed service to more rural customers as a condition of the government approving its purchase of T-Mobile.
You may have gotten emails in the past week from companies with which you deal online saying that a hacker has compromised their system and obtained your e-mail address. A company called Epsilon, which works as a mailing list contractor for companies like Best Buy, Disney and Kroger, was compromised by hackers. Epsilon officials say that all that was stolen were customer names and e-mail addresses, so chances are the worst consequence is that you'll be receiving a little more SPAM than you would have otherwise. But if you're concerned, you can go to the trouble of setting up a new e-mail address and giving it to all of your legitimate contacts.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is lakeneuron.com.