Will New 'Color' App Put Privacy in the Red?

A new photo-sharing app is attempting to redefine the social networking experience. The catch? There are no privacy settings, so you'll be sharing your memories with everyone. Consider it a social network for a post-privacy world.

A new photo-sharing app is attempting to redefine the social networking experience. The catch? There are no privacy settings, so you’ll be sharing your memories with everyone. Consider it a social network for a post-privacy world.

Color, a free photo-sharing app for iPhones and Android-based smartphones, detects your location and lets you create and share photos and video albums automatically with other Color users within 100 feet of you. It will also show you all of their photos. No permission asked, or needed.

Users set up an account by entering just a screen name and a photo to identify themselves, so no name or personally identifiable information is associated with your account.

Color then uses your phone and GPS technology to determine who your friends are by detecting who is generally near you. Color will also note how often you are near other users and, if the two of you hang out together often, Color will join you through a social network. Once it establishes such a network, Color will show you pictures and video not only from people nearby, but also from people in the social network it set up.

While Color is a photo-sharing app, consider it more Twitter than Path, Instagram, Hipstamatic or Cooliris with its real-time delivery and open nature. Every photo is immediately considered public and made public, so there are no permission requests, log ins, “friending,” “following” or synching with PCs. Each photo is like a tweet.

You can’t mark any of your photos private. You can delete your own photos, eventually, but first they are open to anyone near you or “bound” to you on the Color network. And the app doesn’t tell you who has access to your photos.

As early reviewers have indicated, the app isn’t for private types.

But, unlike with other social networks under privacy pressure, Color makes no pretense about its privacy settings, or lack there of.

“Social networks are doing pretty amazing things, but to me, social networks still [feel] solitary, like advanced email, where you write something, post something, and someone responds. That’s not like real life at all,” Color CEO Bill Nguyen explained. “This is like TIVO-ing life. There’s no forgetting.”

“I think it’s the best, most complete way of having a record of your life,” he said. “It’s your life crowdsourced.”

So the question is whether users themselves will embrace that same notion, and weigh the benefits of the technology as greater than any risks from a lack of privacy.

The idea of using photos and geographic location to create social networks is revolutionary. It might just take some getting used to.

Color’s future will also be watched closely, one would assume, by other social networks to see how users react to the app’s straightforward, no-holds-barred approach to privacy.

The app is being pitched for use at everything from large crowd events like concerts and football games to parks, parties and play dates. Links to photo albums on Color can also be shared through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and text.

Color is generating as much buzz for its everything-is-public and real-time approach to social networking as for who is behind it.

The developers include the CEO Bill Nguyen, known for co-founding music startup LaLa, former BillShrink CEO Peter Pham, and former LinkedIn chief scientist DJ Patil.

Together they assembled a $41 million venture-capital investment to launch the app, including $350,000 alone for the Color.com domain name.

Color, available for free, is available now on Android and iPhone. Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 apps will be coming soon, its developers say.