The furor surrounding privacy and location is no longer media headline grabbing, it is a genuine concern that the industry will need to address. So starting last weekend, I dug my old Nokia from a box that included 2 portable CD players (remember trying to run with them), a floppy disk, some Irish currency (I may need this again), and a Now 24 album - I have been smartphone free for two days.
I have been researching the GPS and location market for 10 years or so, monitoring the stunted yet inevitable rise of LBS. I have always backed location to the hilt for the multitude of positives it can bring versus the limited potential negatives highlighted by the media. Even with Locationgate, I was neither surprised nor found it particularly worrying. But it did represent how the industry’s attitude had changed from one of caution to that of a grab everything gold rush.
When it comes to location, platforms and developers alike are thinking in terms of legal rather than moral right and wrongs, covering themselves through carefully constructed terms and conditions. It has become an arms race, where there is no individual culpability in collective behavior. Applications are now nothing more than Trojan horses, mining data for advertising purposes. Even if developers are reigned in, there is a sense that there will always be loopholes and workarounds, ensuring that someone can access data.
Admittedly, my data isn’t that exciting or important, and having it aggregated, anonymously represents a fantastic way for everyone to benefit without the need for intrusion or extreme personalization. However, the boundary of what is anonymous and what can be tightly linked to my store cards, social medial profiles, search behavior, etc. is now being flagrantly pushed. Despite living an upsettingly mundane lifestyle, there is something unnerving about an electronics company knowing more about my psychological prolife and preferences than me.
I spoke with a carrier last week that is looking at ways to enable the user to not only control how and when location information is gathered, but also to clearly see who is using it. This approach is transparent, easy to use and will restore confidence. This is where the industry needs to go with this. Highly targeted advertising is and can be extremely beneficial for all parties, but the control must be handed back to the user. If not, the industry will back itself into a corner and there are plenty of politicians who will relish the opportunity of putting in place far reaching legislation to limit the increasing power of the internet.