Each year during the unrivaled 10-day interactive/film/music festival South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, millions of digital users across the globe wait to see the latest, greatest app unveiled and to learn how it will change the way we interact with each other on a daily basis. Twitter and Foursquare were each introduced at SXSW. And this year didn’t disappoint.

Highlight, an iPhone-only location-based app (watch for an Android version soon), goes beyond your traditional check-in app. This promising breakout star declares it is “a fun, simple way to learn more about the people around you.” You sign in through Facebook and Highlight notifies you when friends or friends of friends are nearby. You can message the person or “highlight them.” Basically it lets you bookmark a person you want to meet or communicate with. Simple. Relationship-building. And potentially cover blowing?

Since attending the festival, I’ve been giving considerable thought to Highlight and its role in aviation, an industry that prides itself on giving business people the opportunity to come and go in full stealth mode.

Convenient or Creepy?

The big-brother, sixth-sense factor increases with each location-based app advancement. Being a social society, we want to connect with people. But do apps like this push our privacy limits?

The aviation community might be a tightly knit one, but stop for a moment before you check in next time on Foursquare, Facebook or Highlight and ask yourself these questions.

  • Should pilots use location-based apps on company time?
  • Is it a violation of the passenger or company’s privacy?
  • Does it inadvertently place information in the hands of the competitor?
  • What are the implications to business and in particular to the privacy long associated with flying on private aircraft?

Privacy Concerns in Aviation

Any time you meet someone, you automatically access your internal checklist. If this person is someone you want to know better. If you have mutual interests. If there could be business opportunities down the road. Highlight could be your new best friend. Or your worst enemy.