August 2010
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Day 6: Steve Wynn is watching you

The Wynn proudly announced a new iPhone app today and I was keen to see if they’d managed to make a better job of it than Harrah’s or MGM.

Oddly, for a casino that went to such great lengths to create the world’s most unusable and slow-to-load web site, they’ve plumped for an off-the-shelf app by Mobile Roadie, crowbarring a platform designed for musicians to just about fit rather than creating their own monstrosity from scratch.

It’s nothing special, but I imagine the priority with creating this was to give iPhone users a way to actually get information about the property without needing to create a non-flash web site, and in that respect it’s a success.

Now they just need to give web users a similarly straightforward way to find what they’re looking for.  In fact, I’d much rather use the app to find information about the Wynn than have to put up with Steve Wynn’s narration while trying to catch the section I’m looking for as it flies past my mouse pointer.

Here’s what bothers me though.  A bit later in the day I noticed that the location services indicator was stuck on on my phone.  It took me a while to figure out why, and I killed every app I could find that looked like it might still be running, and even rebooted the phone.  Still something was watching my every movement.

Eventually I found it from the location settings.  Wynn must have asked if it could check my location, but I generally don’t care about that to start with and say yes to everything, as it’s easier to switch it off than give permission later if an app does happen to do something awesome that uses your location.

Having now played with the app and realised that it actually uses location for nothing except, presumably, tracking who is using the app, I turned it off.

And then, magically, the location services indicator in the title bar just disappeared.

The location indicator in the title bar is a new feature in the latest iPhone operating system.  Notably, the Wynn app hides the whole title bar when it’s running – so you can’t tell it’s watching you.

It’s one thing checking where users are when they launch an app to track distribution.  Some might find it a little invasive, but really it does no harm.

However if you keep polling the user’s location for no good reason, even when the app isn’t active, and without any function in the app needing that information, it’s nothing short of stalking.

Is this the next generation of casino surveillance? Who’s to say they’re not also secretly taking your picture using the iPhone 4’s front-facing camera and hooking it into the casino’s facial recognition system?

Probably not possible on the Mobile Roadie platform, but maybe that’s just a front after all.

I’ll get my tin foil hat eh?

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