I’ve juggling with the idea of writing about location based social networking privacy issues for many weeks. From any side I tried to approach this issue I remained with more questions than answers.
I considered starting with the Fourth Amendment, even though GPS technology didn’t exist in 1791. Not entering into a legal discussion my first impression is that the emphasis here is on personal security. That’s when I remembered my first digital camera and my wife being terrified to put pictures of our kids on the web. It wasn’t about privacy, but about the reasonable expectancy of keeping our kids secure and avoiding people delving into our lives.
I believe this is the paradox of social networks in general and those based on location in particular. I want to make my information public but at the same time I want to keep the information secured (actually not the information but myself).
Looking over the other side of the table, the value of a social network resides on the information you provide. The lack of privacy is one of the pillars that sustain the business models of many, if not all, social networks. When privacy issues are raised, we usually ask what the companies are doing to protect their customers. Expecting the companies to protect your privacy is like expecting the cat to safeguard the cream; this is the fuel for their business. It’s not the companies that need to protect the information, rather YOU the customer.
I reviewed the privacy policies of more than 20 location based social networks and personal locator devices. I recommend you to do so before you start posting When and Where you are doing your What and with Whom. But if we separate the concepts of Privacy and Security, I don’t think the Location Based Social Networks companies are the problem. Technology is usually neutral, users aren’t.
Personally I don’t mind if a company, in exchange for a service, collects information about my habits, locations, and other details IF before using that information ALL personal identification is completely deleted AND is never used to sell something back to ME. The fact I’m a public person and I share information, is not an invitation to invade my space. My space is on invitation ONLY. Once we agree on this principle, we can start talking about other technological barrier and safeguard such as location acquisition and capture, location notification and accuracy, location information accessibility, location history control, location ownership, etc.
Today as in 1791 Privacy and Safety are really a concern and privacy advocates have a central role in corporate LBS
Without any doubt, the accessibility of GPS technology is leading us to new types of communities and services. People participate in a virtual world without borders; People are part of virtual societies, sometime bigger than the population of many countries. Maybe “We the People” needs to virtually govern ourselves and establish the new social conduct standards for a completely different world.
So, where do you stand?