Who’d have thought swine flu would be a driver of innovative iPhone App mash-ups? There’s nothing quite like paranoia (and the possibility of making a few quid) to drive rapid innovation.
A number of swine flu apps have launched on the iPhone App store in recent weeks that allow you to keep track of the breaking pig flu news, and even to track the location of the latest swine sickness cases on a map. Handy for some I guess, but do services like this pour petrol on to the raging bonfire of paranoia?
At what point is too much information (or the ropey coding of a bedroom developer looking to make a quick buck) more dangerous than the original threat? For example, imagine if some hokey code in a swine flu App incorrectly suggested a sudden, massive outbreak of swine flu cases in central London which triggered a mass panic where real injuries were caused by people scrambling to escape the area of their Google Map that’s covered in the green pins of ‘doom’. The way the media operates today – report/retweet first, check facts later – could mean that other news sources initially report the alleged new outbreaks as fact rather than risk missing a new story, thus seemingly corroborating the original App and spinning the paranoia forward.
This example is a little extreme, but it serves to illustrate how the innovative technology that products like the iPhone enable can exponentially increase the immediacy of an individual’s access to information, but that the impact on society as a whole is largely unknown and unconsidered. As the ability to share information becomes faster and more sophisticated our phones (and their Apps) seem destined to make society even more reactionary and paranoid.
Cool Apps are great, but if ‘information is power’ who ensures the information is shared reliably and responsibly from developer through to end-user?