In a new paper, “Building Privacy into Mobile Location Analytics (MLA) Through Privacy by Design” (pdf), Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian and Aislelabs co-founders Nilesh Bansal and Nick Koudas discuss privacy protections when it comes to individuals’ mobile location data. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:
As the popularity of smartphones and tablet computers continues to rise, more and more creative ways of using these devices are being developed. While apps continue to provide the majority of new functionality, there is a growing industry built upon utilizing, not the advanced computing capability of smart devices, but their increased ability to connect wirelessly to other devices and networks. One technology that has recently created a new use of smart mobile devices by utilizing their increased connectivity is Mobile Location Analytics (MLA).
MLA provides retailers with insights into the in-store behavior of their customers by tracking the number, location, and patterns of smart mobile devices that enter and exit their stores. While this technology provides retailers and customers with many benefits—generally speaking, it allows retailers to adapt more efficiently and effectively to the demands of their customers—it also raises many privacy concerns. In order for MLA to maintain the trust and confidence of consumers while improving retailers’ understanding of them, these privacy concerns must be addressed in a manner that simultaneously allows for the generation of effective retail analytics.
Such a positive-sum, “win-win” paradigm, which seeks to meet all legitimate interests and objectives, may be achieved through application of the principles of Privacy by Design. By embedding privacy into the design and architecture of MLA systems and their corresponding business practices, Privacy by Design allows consumer privacy and retail analytics to co-exist in tandem without diminishing system functionality.\
In this paper, we examine the application of Privacy by Design to the design and architecture of MLA systems through the work of Toronto-based MLA company Aislelabs. Aislelabs is part of a working group of MLA companies that, together with the Washington D.C.-based think tank Future of Privacy Forum, proactively identified privacy issues inherent in the functioning of MLA technology. The result is a Code of Conduct that sets down effective privacy controls for the use of MLA technology in the industry.1