Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Enter AstroSloth

Funny thing about features. Or apps. Or web pages. Or books. Or whatever else you can think to invent: People will use them in ways you didn’t intend they be used.

Oh. Also: People are amazingly trusting and naïve when it comes to technology. Myself included.
I am getting savvier. If, for example, I get a Facebook friend request from someone I don’t know and have not interacted with on Facebook, I don’t reply. That’s a big leap from my years on Twitter when I friended everyone who came long, to the point I decided to exit the Twitterverse because of, shall we say, the perverts.

I have yet to receive an AstroSloth. Probably because I don’t have a smartphone nor do I frequent Silicon Valley. But there’s a person out there sharing AstroSloth pictures with random people using an Apple device app meant to make it easier to share files with friends. Except this person is sharing files with total strangers.

The most interesting part of the article (emphasis mine):

Did Apple ever envision people using it like this? I sure hope so. I can tell you that at a recent technology conference, I happened to be sitting a few feet away from a certain Apple executive and one of the company's PR people. I fired up AirDrop out of curiosity and both their phones immediately popped up, names included. During a break I ventured to ask why he'd left the setting on, and he told me it was to make it easier to share things with friends, and that he just left it on that way. When I told him what I used it for, I got a stern look of disapproval. Maybe they didn't think this through.

Of course they didn’t think it through. Perhaps they did have some employees sitting there in development meetings thinking “You know, I could use this feature to send sloth pictures to random people!” But that person either didn’t speak up or was roundly shouted down when the subject came up. And that’s a foolish thing to do. Because users are creative people.

And the problem doesn’t end with AstroSloth pictures. What if, for example, someone used this feature to send photos meant to sexually harass the receiver? Or harass the receiver in any way not connected with innocently sending sloth photos? Of course, even the receiver of the sloth photo should smile – or at least not be overly annoyed – for AstroSloth to come across innocently. Yes, people should be more savvy with their devices – that would be the ideal fix. Don’t want people sending you sloth photos? De-activate the feature while in public. Or device makers could set up the feature in a way to allow it only to accept content from people the user identifies as trustworthy. And maybe it does – I don’t know; I do not have an Apple product nor have I activated similar features on my Kindle. At least I think I haven’t. I’d better check. Nope, I have not activated any such feature on my Kindle Fire. Though I could. Easily. But I’m not going to. Because I have other ways to do that kind of thing that don’t open me to every AstroSloth sender out there.

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