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Who knows where you are and when?

20 December, 2012

Australians love their GPS' and mobile location apps, but do they understand what’s happening as they go from A to B?

Australian Communications and Media Authority research released recently indicates while more than 80 per cent of Australians surveyed have used a location service to get directions at least once a week, there is a general lack of awareness about how information and personal data may be shared when using these services.

"As a consequence, many consumers lack the ability to choose appropriate protection options,"  ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, said.

"While the take-up of location services is growing, the ACMA’s research shows that consumers have a limited understanding of how their personal information may be shared, used, stored and controlled. Almost half of users surveyed did not even know it was possible to turn off location services."

The report, Here, there and everywhere—Consumer behaviour and location services, also found that 72 per cent of consumers surveyed used a location service via their mobile at least once a week. And around a third of Australians surveyed (38 per cent) use location services related to social interactions at least twice a day.

However, the sale and ownership of information and risks associated with disclosure were key concerns for the majority of users, with 71 per cent worried about information being sold to a third party and 58 per cent concerned about the lack of details on where the data goes and who owns it.

According to the report, the most common uses of these services are to: get directions (95 per cent); check in and share your location with friends (76 per cent); get local weather (74 per cent); find local entertainment and dining options (47 per cent); as well as find ATMs, petrol stations and other services (47 per cent).

Users meanwhile identified these particular concerns:

  • consumer consent and information – the need for information about the collection, storage, sharing and security of personal information by location services and the seeking of explicit consent for these activities
  • managing personal risk – the awareness and ability for consumers to manage the implications of linking personal information and location identifiers where the information may result in an unwanted disclosure of their location
  • managing privacy – consumers’ awareness and ability to manage the collection, and sharing of their personal information with other entities, both by themselves and location service providers.

"Consumers can take effective steps to protect themselves and their information, which was a key rationale behind conducting this research. They need to empower themselves," Chapman said.

What you can do:

  • check security and information collection settings for location services you use
  • set appropriate privacy settings to control who sees your information
  • check-in just before leaving a location, to tell others where you have been rather than where you are
  • give serious consideration to opting-out of location services, and use do-not-track options on smartphones and browsers where available
  • don’t share details - if you’re not sure whether you’re posting too much information, then don’t post it
  • turn-off location services on your device when you are not using them.

Have your say...

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Bebees basuki | Thursday, January 10, 2013, 10:34 AM
interesting information.