The ACLU of Northern California has released a new guide outlining privacy considerations for mobile location-based services, such as Foursquare, Facebook Places, Twitter and Loopt. This is the third in a series of issue papers discussing the implications for individuals of new technology trends. (The first is: “Cloud Computing: Storm Warning for Privacy?“; the second is: “Digital Books: A New Chapter for Reader Privacy.”) The guide, “Location-Based Services: Time for a Privacy Check-In,” includes a side-by-side comparison chart (pdf) of the privacy practices of six popular location-based services.
ACLU-NC says: “Location-based services can collect information about not only where we go but who we know, what we do, and who we are. If that information falls into the wrong hands, the consequences can range from embarrassing to chilling to downright dangerous. Robberies have been linked to location status updates and GPS technology already has been involved in a significant number of stalking cases [pdf]. And the government is increasingly interested in this information too. Recently, Michigan police demanded information about every mobile phone near the site of a planned labor union protest. In 2009, a Sprint employee revealed that law enforcement accessed location information about Sprint users more than 8 million times over a 13-month period.”
This paper examines the current state of legal and technical privacy protections for users of location-based services and explores opportunities for consumers, businesses, and policymakers to work together to update and enhance these protections.
Part I of this paper provides background information on location-based services. Part II examines the privacy concerns that arise from the use of location-based services and Part III surveys the current state of privacy protections for consumers of these services. Finally, Part IV identifies opportunities for consumers, businesses, and policymakers to reinforce privacy protections for location information so that individuals are not forced to pay for location-based services with control over their personal information