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Fire Eagle stalks mobile users

Web giant Yahoo is catching flack more typically reserved for Google this week, as it announced the general availability of location mapping service Fire Eagle.

In Yahoo’s own words, “Fire Eagle is an open platform that helps users take their location to the web while giving them the ability to easily control how and where their location data is shared.”

What this means is that Fire Eagle allows users and developers to experience and, via the API, create applications that are geo-aware – allowing web, mobile or desktop applications to update a user’s location automatically.

The platform differs from existing geo-aware services that let users stalk their friends or broadcast their location for example, by passing the information along to all other sites in the Fire Eagle network. So, it could be that all the web services a user subscribes to, know where he or she is at all times.

And this is what has got the privacy advocates in a flap. But Yahoo is keen to head critics off at the pass with a layered opt in service that lets users decide how much information they want to share with each of their services and reminder messages that appear every 45 days. There is also the option to switch off the service and to delete or modify location history, just in case you want to be somewhere else.

Around 50 developers have already signed their applications up to the platform, but perhaps tellingly, Yahoo is not yet planning to use Fire Eagle in its own applications. It looks like the web firm is instead waiting it out to see if Fire Eagle picks up a critical mass before committing to it itself. After all, some are still sceptical that location based services are the next big thing.


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