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Students' new best friend: 'MoSoSo'

Mobile Social Networking Software – the next wave of virtual community – is already appearing on cellphones, beginning with college campuses.

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Mobile GPS will open a Pandora's box of possibilities, say others. "I'd be very concerned about pedophiles or identity thieves hacking into a system and locating me, my wife, or daughter," says Henry Simpson, who coordinates new technology for the California State University at Monterey Bay (CSUMB). "It raises huge safety issues," he adds.

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But new technologies have always brought new risks – such as identity theft. Philosophically, every technology has both positive and negative values, says Andrew Anker, vice president of development at Six Apart, a Web consulting firm. "In fact," he points out, "the most positive aspects are what also add the most negative."

Companies looking to do business on college campuses have paid particular attention to security concerns. Rave Wireless introduced a GPS/MoSoSo enabled phone for students this past year, emphasizing the security value of the GPS feature over its potential to deliver underage victims to predators. While the Rave phones enable students to find like-minded buddies (Bored? Love Indian food? Meet me under the clock!), it also offers a cyberescort service linked to campus police. If the student doesn't turn off a timer in the phone, indicating safe arrival at a destination, police are dispatched to a GPS location.

Campus residents give the service high marks. Kristen Halverson, a resident adviser at CSUMB, says her students are often alone on campus late at night. "The GPS escort is probably the best new thing for students I've seen," she says.

There is a certain irony in the concerns about safety using GPS, points out industry analyst, Bijan Sabet, a partner at the venture capital firm, Spark Capital. Mobile GPS was created in response to a federal mandate, because cellphones couldn't handle 911 emergency calls. But, safety concerns aside, the phone is clearly the hot new platform in the tech world – witness Steve Jobs's announcement of the Apple iPhone. "It's not a matter of 'if' the mobile phone will prove important, it's just a matter of how fast," adds Mr. Sabet.

MoSoSo: the new social glue