Opinion: why I think Bluetooth Facebook is a grand (if stalker-ish) idea

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katpicture6.jpg Katherine Hannaford writes…

I take back every mean-spirited thing I’ve ever said about students. Yes, even on those nights out in Kingston, Hammersmith, or Clapham, when they’ve filled the gutters, emptying their stomachs of all the Snakebites they can hold, forcing me to resemble a middle-class snob, shaking my head as I pass them soberly (well, vomitless, anyway), muttering under my breath ‘damn students’.

Why am I suddenly revoking my student-hating membership card? Why, because the clever little sods have developed possibly the world’s best Facebook application. Yes, even better than the Karl Pilkington quotes app. We’re talking Bluetooth Facebook. Read on, social-networking fiends…

The BBC have cottoned on to a group of Bath University students who are obviously not having a proper education, spending their time slaving over a new Facebook application instead of drawing Hitler moustaches onto their passed-out mates’ faces. Shame on them.

They’ve developed a tool which allows those with Facebook profiles to register with the Facebook tool, Cityware (backed by Nokia, HP Labs and Vodafone), and then register the Bluetooth ID of their mobile phone or laptop with the software, allowing anyone within Bluetooth proximity to register that you have a Facebook profile.

Anyone that you bump into, who is also a Cityware and Facebook user, can then have the choice of adding to to their friends’ list, thus expanding your social circle, and giving you more friends online who you actually know offline. A worthy tool, given that we’re all racking up more and more virtual friends faster than you can reject your old school frenemies who’ve hunted you down on the social networking site wanting to gloat about their lawyer boyfriends.

All around the UK and the US, the researchers have set up a series of nodes, or computers, which scan for Bluetooth-capable devices such as mobile phones or laptops, that then send the info back to servers who correlate the IDs with the enabled Facebook profiles.

Once you log on to Facebook, you’ll be faced with a list of all the people you came into contact with who are also using the tool. You’ll then be able to browse their profiles, and add or reject them at your whim.

I think this sounds like a brilliant idea admittedly, and perfect for the singletons amongst us. Imagine being able to add that physically superior human being you spied on the nightbus to Facebook, and then strike up a witty conversation on each other’s walls. You might even be able to send them a gift if you’re particularly enamoured with your newfound Facebook friend.

My only concerns would be over security, which is what most technophobes tend to harp on about these days anytime Facebook or the internet is concerned. I’d hope that when you log in to Facebook, and are faced with the list of people you came into contact with, you’d only see a limited profile, regardless of what setting they’d chosen.

Otherwise, if you recognised Joe Bloggs on the list of people on Facebook, as the man who worked at the Starbucks near your office, and then had access to his whole profile, including potentially his email address, phone number, and home address, that’d be a real stalker’s delight. Which is just like the Angel Delight pudding, but more deep-breathing and flasher-mac like.

Potentially this tool being developed by the students could have a great effect on society, allowing us to befriend even more people, particularly in the outside world, fostering real life friendships. Imagine what it’d do to your sex life. Of course, one could argue that only boffins and real geeks would actually sign up to this technologically-forward program, people who probably wouldn’t be wanting to make new friends in real life anyway. Good thing the same group of developers are developing the same program for Second Life users, then…

Katherine Hannaford is Deputy Editor of Tech Digest, and whilst admits to skiving on Facebook more often than she should, she’s really getting a bit sick of writing about the site, to be honest, and isn’t surprised if you’re sick of reading about it already.

(via BBC)

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Katherine Hannaford