LBS SIG Panel Discussion on Location-Based Services: Balancing Convenience and Privacy

There has been much talk on internet privacy, collection and sale of user data, etc. But what about the collection, use and sale of a user’s location. Many applications provide warnings on download that the application may collect your location among other personal information, but we say OK, and download the app anyway. Is this a self inflicted wound or an abuse of our privacy? Can or should the wireless industry self regulate? Are we free to share our location or do we need help from Big Brother to protect us? According to the Nielsen Company’s latest research on mobile applications, most mobile app downloaders are concerned about privacy when it comes to sharing their location via mobile phone. This concern is more pronounced among women app downloaders, with 59 percent reporting they have privacy concerns compared to 52 percent of male app downloaders. Age is a factor as well. Mobile app downloaders between the ages of 25-34 were the least likely to have privacy concerns. Privacy concerns were considerably higher among those over the age of 45.

On July 13, LBS SIG presented a panel entitled "Privacy & Security Regulation: Threat to the Growth and Adoption of Location-Based Services?" to discuss these issues. The panel was attended by companies interested in location-based services. Beth Givens, director of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, was invited to represent the interests and concerns of consumers as a panel member.

This session addressed the following questions:

1) What user location data is available to third parties (IP address, WiFi access point, GPS embedded in photos, cell site, assisted GPS, or GPS, other)? Do users understand what information is collected and the way in which their movements could be tracked?
2) Does use of location technology create real threats to personal privacy and security?
3) Is there a healthy trade-off between loss of privacy and provision of personalized services?
4) Does the industry need to pay more attention to protecting privacy and security?
5) Can the adoption of industry best practices guard against regulatory overreach and litigation risk?

Here is a video of the panel:

Privacy & Security Regulation: Threat to the Growth and Adoption of Location-Based Services? from CommNexus San Diego on Vimeo.