I doubt I am alone in having a craving for new technology, hankering after the latest gadgets long before I have even considered how I will use them. Thats why I have a few non-security feeds deposited into my email inbox every day; to feed my thirst for just about anything electronic.

Sometimes, though, the new tech I read about has a crossover point with the security sphere and that is exactly what I thought when I read about Google’s new Project Tango this morning.

“The goal of Project Tango is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.”

Project Tango is a new project from the search giant which looks to give mobile devices the ability to go way beyond simple GPS location sensing. The plan is to allow smartphones and tablets to map their exact locations and to construct a virtual 3D rendition of their surroundings.

“We are physical beings that live in a 3D world. Yet, our mobile devices assume that physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen.”

The project, announced by Johnny Lee and the ATAP-Project Tango Team on Thursday, has a self-professed goal of giving mobile devices a “human-scale understanding of space and motion.”

This aim is achieved via a mix of hardware and software. The key part, found in 5″ prototype phones, is a variety of sensors that allow the device to “make over a quarter of a million 3D measurements every second.”

In combination with specially designed software this will, according to Google, allow the phone to “track the full 3D motion of the device, while simultaneously creating a map of the environment.”

“What if you never again found yourself lost in a new building?”

The company are now looking for interested third parties to partner with, hinting at a few potential uses for its new technology, such as measuring the exact dimensions of your property before going furniture shopping, or obtaining more precise directions to an unknown location.

Google also suggest that its new tech may have uses in the leisure market, giving the example of a virtual hide and seek game in which you could play against your favourite virtual character (though they would surely have an advantage, knowing the exact dimensions of your property and every nook and cranny within it?)

Other suggestions include one-vs-one games with your friends as you play a game of domination with your respective homes the battleground, as well as hiding virtual prizes in graphical interpretations of real-world buildings across the globe.

On first glance Project Tango sounds very enticing and it is something I could see gaining a good place in the marketplace if it receives the tight level of support and promotion.

But there are information security and privacy aspects to consider here too in my opinion.

If users of Project Tango are mapping their homes in detail, what happens to that data? Considering Google’s comments about virtual prize hunts in Tango-based environments I wonder if that means that users’ 3D renditions of their own homes will be shared across the internet?

Just having the layout of my property so easily accessible sounds scary, but what if that dimension-calculating algorithm means that the way I have my property decorated and furnished becomes common knowledge?

Think what a potential burglar could do with detailed maps of your home and what you have in it – what size TV do you have? What room is it in? Where are the exits? Etc, etc.

And just what are Google going to do with such data? Can you trust the company to look after it? Do you really think that it will not look to make money from the project? I can just imagine visiting the bathroom with my phone in hand (we all do that, right?) and promptly receiving a popup ad for toilet roll!

Lastly, what will the security services make of such technology?

I’ll leave you to ponder that question on your own but I will leave you with a dialogue between Lucius Fox and Batman, from the movie The Dark Knight, in which the pair discussed a similar-sounding mapping tool –

Batman: Beautiful, isn’t it?
Fox: Beautiful… unethical… dangerous. You’ve turned every cellphone in Gotham into a microphone.
Batman: And a high-frequency generator-receiver.
Fox: You took my sonar concept and applied it to every phone in the city. With half the city feeding you sonar, you can image all of Gotham. This is *wrong*.
Batman: I’ve gotta find this man, Lucius.
Fox: At what cost?
Batman: The database is null-key encrypted. It can only be accessed by one person.
Fox: This is too much power for one person.
Batman: That’s why I gave it to you. Only you can use it.
Fox: Spying on 30 million people isn’t part of my job description.

– which reminds me of another quote from Spiderman in which the protagonist says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The question is, are Google responsible enough to have that power?

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