Social apps like Swarm want to be more contextual, attempting to know where you’re at and who you might know nearby. By tracking your location, the aim is to get you communicating with friends, even hanging out if you can. A new report suggests Google is doing the same, building it straight into Android in an upcoming Play Services release. Dubbed “Nearby”, the goal is to let devices communicate without you having to do a thing.
The drab Nearby moniker is apt, as the utility simply wants to take your location (as well as information about it) and feed it to Google’s servers, then couple it with another device. You can, of course, pick and choose who you are or aren’t visible to — likely relying on Google+ circles, where you’ll need to parse folks out. The information on Nearby so far is sparse, but telling.
The screenshots in the above gallery show the opt-in screen which notes the service wants to let you “connect, share, and do more with the people, places, and things around you”. It also adds the following:
When Nearby is turned on for your account, Google can periodically turn on the mic, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and similar features on all your current and future devices. Google+ and other Google services need this access to help you connect, share, and more.
When you turn on Nearby, you’re also turning on Location History for your account and Location Reporting for this device. Google needs these services to periodically store your location data for use by Nearby, other Google services, and more.
What we can gather from there is that your Android device wants to periodically listen in, search for devices around you via Bluetooth, and perhaps see if anyone near you is on the same WiFi network. The scary part is automatic monitoring, where Google may get info about scenarios you’re in that you may not be comfortable sharing.
The benefit is a connected world. By knowing you were near something like home, and had a door lock connected to your WiFi network, the ability to say “Ok, Google, unlock the door” without touching your device could be handy.
We’ll stop short of speculating why this service may be cobbled into Play Services, but it’s one that could cause a lot of backlash. Some may not be comfortable with the service accessing the mic or Bluetooth, and doing so would likely be CPU and power consumptive. The screen shots don’t show a method for allowing us to select which discovery utilities we’d be comfortable with.
If this is part of something bigger, expect to see this announced at Google I/O. While there might be a lot of upside, the “in for a penny, in for a pound” terms may not sit well with some.
Source: Android Police