It's Time for a Location Data Code of Conduct: Four Needed Policies
Later this month the European Union’s “Article 29 Working Party” is likely to issue new rules requiring mobile and smartphone providers to treat location-based data as Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Last week, Apple, Google and others testified on the Hill regarding their use—or misuse—of consumer’s location data from smartphones.
What is driving the speed and intensity of this regulatory response? A simple fact: location-based data links mineable information context about what you are doing, when and where, in a manner that is explicitly tied to your identity. This is a watershed threat to privacy we have not seen since the commercialization of the Internet (when we had to pay for Internet access).
Providers of smartphones and mobile applications need to realize and proactively manage this. If not, life could quickly become much harder for them. This would not just be bad for providers; if would curtail innovation enjoyed by consumers.
Now is the time for industry to get out in front and establish a Code of Conduct guiding use of location-based data (just as the Mobile Marketing Association did years ago for text messaging). Not only could this head off costly regulation; it could also set the standard for a trusted consumer experience, significantly expanding the location-based service market.
An effective Location-based Data Code of Conduct should include the following policies:
1. Enable users to turn location services on or off easily and transparently
Location-based tracking and promotion is great when people are gift shopping. However, sometimes it is simply an invasion of privacy. This applies equally to the enterprise, as companies don’t want their mission-critical staff to turn off corporate mobile phones to protect their private lives when they are out of the office. Smartphone and mobile app providers need to enable people to turn location-based services on or off. Those who make this easy and transparent will establish market leadership.