Sci-fi writers, visionaries and renowned thinkers often warned of a possible future in which mankind unknowingly surrenders privacy and autonomy to technology. Arguably, that dreaded vision has already come to fruition. UK-based Sniff (social network integrated friend finder) is an innovative mobile phone friend-finding service. According to the company site, it works like this: “1. Sign up— Text ‘yes’ to 60506 to register. 2. Get permission— Text “invite” + friend name + friend number to 60506 and wait for your friend to accept. 3. sniff— Text “sniff” + friend name to 60506 and find out where they are.”
The implications of this service are absolutely frightening. All a would-be stalker needs to do to find a victim is to grab that person’s phone for a moment sign them up for the service with one text message to sniff, then the stalker has a perpetual tracking device, unbeknownst to the victim.
So easy and obvious is the hack, Sniff has a disclaimer page on their website for “safe sniffing” with questions users should ask:
“Do you really trust them? Would you leave them alone in your home? Do you know where they live? Are you sure you want them to know where you are?”
Strangely, this safety disclaimer is directed at possible Sniff customers, asking them to use discretion when allowing someone to add them to Sniff, when those most in danger are people who leave their cell phones unattended, and would have no idea they were “sniffed” in the first place.
Clearly, no social networking entity should need users to read a safety disclaimer. No service provided by for social networking purposes should have any potential for endangering users, and the risk factor is very, very high in the case of Sniff. Hopefully Sniff will go out of business in the near future, and will serve as nothing more than a warning of what can happen when technology goes bad.