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Timothy B. Lee

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Timothy B. Lee covers technology policy, including copyright and patent law, telecom regulation, privacy, and free speech. He also writes about the economics of technology. He has previously written for Ars Technica and Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter or send him email.

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Posted at 01:15 PM ET, 03/25/2011

Color, new photo-sharing app, raises privacy concerns

Color is the app that everyone’s talking about, but not all the chatter is good. The app, from Lala creator Bill Nguyen, launched Wednesday with $41 million in funding. It shares the photos of its users with all other app users within about 100 feet.

But it’s total lack of privacy controls has raised more than a few eyebrows. It’s a social app, but with an elastic network. Users don’t friend, like or follow people in their network. The app makes everything public and determines who is a friend based on how often users are in the same location.

“The fundamental issue in privacy centers around whether you’re giving the user control and choice,” said Hemanshu Nigam, founder of the online privacy consulting company SSP Blue. “Especially in social media, you have to focus on that.”

The app does give users the option to block someone, but Nigam said that feature alone isn’t enough. After all, how do you block someone if you don’t know they can see what you’re doing?

He said the app is of particular concern because of the speed at which it’s gaining users. In two days, the app is already the 30th most-downloaded app on the Apple iTunes store.

“It will create a huge sense of excitement among people who use apps,” he said, adding that that’s just about everyone. “A lot of people will want it and not be thinking of the ramifications of it.”

Nigam said that adding privacy features into an app isn’t difficult to do and that Color will likely add the feature somewhere down the line. “I would expect this company to step up and do what they need to,” he said.

He added that its best to address privacy and security issues up front, before privacy groups or the FTC raise their own concerns.

“Obviously the company has right funding and resources,” he said. “And, at the end of the day, it’s in their best interest to move in that direction.”

By  |  01:15 PM ET, 03/25/2011

Tags:  Privacy

 
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