Loki Cometh

By Ben Charny  |  Posted 2006-03-20 Print this article Print

Worried about the Internet's erosion of your privacy? Take a look at Loki.

The free, Web browser toolbar from Boston-based Skyhook Wireless automatically determines  your lattitude and longitude, with an accuracy of about 30 meters. Then it mixes that information with commonly-found Internet features.

It works by borrowing your laptop's Wi-Fi antenna to scan for nearby Wi-Fi access points. What Loki finds is then compared  to a database of access points and their locations in 100 top U.S. cities.

It's like having a virtual global positioning system (GPS) for free, and without the hassle or expense of having to get a GPS antenna, says company founder Ted Morgan.  

For all its technical wonder, Morgan said he's had to deal with the privacy concerns Loki raises from nearly day one of its development.

It's understandable, he said. After all, Web travelers now potentially have to worry about exposing their exact location, which arguably is much more valuable to someone with ill intentions than a credit card or phone number.

He assures an interviewer that Loki takes all the necessary precautions to keep user's locations safe from prying eyes. And he adds what info Loki uses is of very little value to anyone other than Loki. But he also understands the proof is in the pudding.

And that's coming. Loki was quietly unleashed a week ago to a general consumer audience, and a marketing attack has begun that'll peak in April, when Loki is formally introduced at the largest U.S. cell phone and wireless industry trade.

Loki has lots of practical applications, Morgan said. For one, Nashville, Tenn.-based CyberAngel Security Solutions  already uses it to recover CEO's laptops.

Loki also has "channels", which automatically feed locations into Google Maps and scores of other online features. In this way, you can use these features and not even have to know where you are. There's also sharing your location with others, or emailing it to friends.

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