I am often asked if I am concerned that the rise in location based services threatens the privacy of users. I wrote a short article on this subject a few months ago which you can read in the November edition of Geoconnexion International.
GPS is increasingly appearing in cellphones and services using the location of the phone are become progressively more sophisticated. This raises the concern that users may lose control of their location information. Just as the internet massively accelerated the spread and malevolence of computer viruses; and e-commerce gave rise to new and efficient methods of identity theft; so the transmission of location information may stimulate a new generation of cyber-crimes.
Right from the start services are being designed with opt-out clauses, parental consents, confirmations to transmit location information, etc., all of which are essential, however in themselves are insufficient. We all have a new learning-curve to climb to become street-wise with our location information.
A more robust approach is to design services from the outset to absolutely minimise the transmission of precise location data. For example, why does my iPod need to transmit my precise location for Google Earth to display my location on a map? This is a simple application which can surely be just as effective without my location leaving the terminal.
Protecting privacy needs to be designed-in from the start. Application design, network technology and even the location technology itself all have a role to play.