Highlight: Clever Networking Tool or Privacy Disaster Waiting to Happen?

This year at South by Southwest Interactive, Highlight made a big splash among conference goers. This new iPhone app was created to put the “social” back in “social media” by notifying users when they are near one another and providing information on mutual friends and shared interests.

Highlight can be really handy at a conference where your main goal is to make new connections and build strategic partnerships for your business. Without an app like this, you have to rely on chance encounters to meet people who share similar interests and connections. Of course, there is nothing wrong with chance encounters, and many people have been building relationships the old-fashioned way for years. But Highlight can increase the odds that you will meet the right person at the right moment, not just at conferences, but while waiting in an airport terminal, grocery shopping or running errands downtown.

I downloaded the app a few weeks ago just to check it out. At first, I was pretty unimpressed because all I got was a blank page that told me to exit the app and wait for a notification. Then, suddenly, about two weeks ago, it seemed like the Highlight wave had finally caught on in Chicago. I was pinged about 7 times in one day, and the app told me that I was near a marketing coordinator, graphic designer, front end developer, research analyst, and digital strategist, among other professionals.

As a marketing consultant for small law firms, I could easily see these types of contacts becoming useful for me one day. Unfortunately, I also noticed that virtually all of my Highlight contacts have come from digital media and marketing, not so much for the legal or other industries.

Plus, I also got another ping…someone I had gone on a few dates with last summer. That means that he also got notice that he was near me. This is the only big problem that I have with Highlight. It syncs with your Facebook information, so if you have a common interest or a common friend with another user, the app will send a notification when that person is near. Unfortunately, you do not have the ability to block certain users. So, if you happen to be in the same grocery store as a needy client or someone that you don’t want to see on a Sunday afternoon, the app could cause problems by disclosing your location to the wrong person. You can just pause the app, but what’s the point in having it if you can’t use it?

At a place like SXSW, however, it’s no surprise that many “tech-savvy hipsters” embraced this location-based app, but I wonder if it will have the same success among lawyers and other professionals who are more concerned with privacy issues.

What are your thoughts on location-based social media? Do you think Highlight is a great way to bring people together or do you think it is a creepy way to keep tabs on friends and near-strangers? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and let me know if you plan to use Highlight to make new connections this year.

  • Angela Trakas

    Thanks for highlighting this new app. I think your points about privacy and whether it’s the right fit for the legal industry are spot on. Maybe a tech-savvy lawyer will make an industry-specific app that will better suit the needs of lawyers and legal marketers.

  • http://www.ktbattle.com Kate Taylor Battle

    Ha! “Highlighting” this new app. I see what you did there.