Sharing location has become much easier but it brings up a lot of new questions. Who owns the data, what can you do with this data? Brady Forrest of O’Reilly Media has been exploring these issues with the Where 2.0 conference and brought together four people at this year’s Web 2.0 Summit to discuss the state of the technology.

April Allderdice from MicroEnergy Credits – they connect micro-finance loan officers in the third word with first world companies that want to buy carbon offset credits. Using GPS with their mobile devices, these loan officers can monitor when someone switches from a coal stove to a solar panel and make available those credits in aggregate for bulk offset purchases.

Rich Minor from Google Android – G1 phone can report location via GPS, Cell Tower ID, and Wifi. The Wifi location services is provided via Skyhook. Unlike the iPhone, the G1 phone can run GPS tracking as a background process.

Ted Morgan from Skyhook Wireless – they have a map of wifi access points (70 million) around the world. This allows you to get maps of physical locations, even inside a building (i.e. 4th floor). Skyhook is the wifi locator on the iPhone – there are over 500 apps on the iphone that use location. They also offer an API for web apps (see Loki API documentation). Not covered in the presentation but I just noticed that BrightKite has a Guess My Location feature which uses Loki and Mozilla’s Geode service to determine location based on your IP address.

Greg Skibiski from Sense Networks – the same way Google analyzes links across the web, Sense Network looks at the way people move about in the geo-world to track past behavior to predict future behavior. (i.e. people that sleep in the Noe Valley neighborhood tend to go out to eat in the Union Street area).

Both Twitter and Facebook are missing integrated location information. People are just starting to realize the power of location. For example, on the Android app Cab4me, you can push one button to request a taxi – location is automatically forwarded to the taxi companies. Yahoo’s Fire Eagle platform broke a lot of ground when it launched but it hasn’t really baked itself into the developer ecosystem (yet).

Skyhook has My Loki but the gave over the storing of location to Fire Eagle. They don’t want to create the impression that they are tracking individual users because of the freak-out factor. Verizon delayed enabling location chips for two years while they were writing their privacy policy on location data. Governments can subpoena this information which gives most companies pause on storing this kind of information. Fire Eagle’s privacy policy is quite good with explicit controls over how your data is shared with third parties. Fire Eagle also, by default, send an email reminder indicating your privacy settings to remind you of your settings.

CitySense from Sense Networks – Featured at the top of this post, this app aggregates personal location information with anonymous location data from other members to show activity on a city map. Currently available on Blackberry (iPhone coming soon) and only for San Francisco. Similar in approach to Nokia’s Friend View application.

MacroSense from Sense Networks – they buy taxi cab location data and match it up with zip code (block level) info to get wealth indicators and try and draw correlations with other indicators to try and predict financial indicators. They sell this data to financial firms and do custom analysis for hedge funds.

Output from a MacroSense report such as the Nightlife Activity Index which shows that many people tended to stay out late right before the recent market crash. Other graphs include the SF Morning Arrival Index (concluding that people in the Financial District get to work early when the market is booming, and later when it’s down) and the SF Taxicab Demand Elasticity Index (indicating middle income people tend to order cabs just prior to market downturns).

For more on Location Based Services such as these, see LBS Zone newsletter and O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference in May.