Saturday, 13 February 2010

Big Brother is watching, and he's hot

All good trends tend to start with a handful of high-profile early adopters, before eventually getting picked up by the masses. It's what Sideshow Bob lookalike Malcolm Gladwell characterised as The Tipping Point.

Take stalkers for example. It used to be that you needed two Oscars, a Grammy nomination and a centrefold photoshoot before you could expect anyone to start rifling through your garbage or sitting in a parked car outside your house.

Countless celebrities have been terrorised by under-medicated over-stimulated obsessives whose behaviour range from online death threats to dog-feeding. Admittedly, pet care may not seem too threatening in itself, unless you're Catherine Zeta Jones, and have been named as a viable alternative to IAMS.

The situation is so bad in Hollywood that Los Angeles Police Department had to establish a specific Threat Management Unit to deal with all the Annie Wilkes wannabes. But times have changed and now we can all enjoy the thrill of being stalked, thanks to Google's new social networking application, Google Buzz.

Available on Android and iPhone, the software combines yet another Twitter alternative, with Google Maps. So, not only can you update your status and comment on the world around you, the GPS will pinpoint your location for all to see.

If you like your privacy, this is not the app for you. Although given the way the world's going, you could be forgiven for thinking that privacy had already been successfully eradicated, along with Smallpox and cassingles.

Critics of the software have pointed out that it automatically creates "circles of friends based on users' most frequent contacts on Gmail" - but doesn't take into account how reciprocal or desirable those relationships are. Whereas Facebook requires confirmation of a friendship, Google Buzz simply bases its social circle algorithms on frequency of communication.

Meanwhile, a gay version of Google Buzz has already been up and running for months, in the form of Grindr - a mobile social networking site designed for gadget-loving guys who think their inbuilt gaydar needs a 3G upgrade. Billed as "the go-to place for gay, bi, and curious men to meet" Grindr uses GPS to share your exact location and 'dating' profile with other subscribers in your area.

Launch the app on your iPhone and you'll instantly be able to see who's out and about nearby, along with some unrepresentative photos and more information about their proclivities and personal dimensions than you could possibly need.

For years, it's been argued that gays are great at gentrifying neighbourhoods - moving into an undesirable areas, and with a flutter of muslin and a few scatter cushions, transforming it into the place to be. Now, thanks to Grindr, it looks like we're doing the same with cyberspace.

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