Location is Everything

9. 3 Defining Location-Based Technologies. 10. 3.1 Examples of LBTs . ..... An examination of the Google Android source repository provides some additional ...
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Location is Everything Balancing Innovation, Convenience, and Privacy in Location-based Technologies

Submitted by: C. Christopher Post Stephen Woodrow {ccpost,woodrow}@mit.edu for 6.805/STS.487: Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier

Submitted 10 December 2008 (Revision 83)

Abstract Location-based technologies (LBTs) — services, devices, and appplications that provide functionality and content tailored by knowledge of your current location — are becoming popular with consumers and are expected to be a major growth area in the mobile device market. While offering great convenience, LBTs are implemented significantly differently from previous technologies providing similar features, and these differences pose new privacy risks to users of LBTs. This paper shows that users of new LBTs expose themselves to privacy risks that are difficult to understand and manage, due to the nature and current implementation of most LBTs. We begin by identifying and discussing the essential differences between LBTs and previous technology efforts to gain an understanding of how LBTs differ from previous technologies, and the privacy implications of these differences. We proceed to explore how these issues manifest themselves in implemented LBT systems commonly available today, including the Apple iPhone, the T-Mobile G1, and the Skyhook Wireless geolocation system. Finally, with an understanding of some of the theoretical and real pitfalls in LBTs, we propose measures to improve user privacy. These measures include new law to provide accountability for data collection and use, policy approaches to ensure users understand their privacy risks and have real choice in managing these risks, and technical methods to deal with some particulary concerning problems we uncovered. LBTs are not a novel fad — they do provide valuable functionality, especially for users of mobile devices. As such, we cannot simply expect users to reject LBTs because they cannot determine if a particular LBT is compatibile with their personal privacy values. In order to promote continued innovation in this market, improvements in law, policy, and technology are required to allow users to enjoy the convenience of LBTs while also maintaining a real expectation of privacy when using these technologies.

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Acknowledgements This paper was a long and complicated effort, and the authors would like to thank the following people for their help: • Jane Horvath, Senior Privacy Counsel, Google Inc., for speaking with us about Google’s approach to privacy and specific aspects of Google’s location-based services. • Hal Abelson, 6.805 Professor, for forcing us to think long and hard about the thesis of our paper, offering feedback on our draft, and for general wisdom and contacts. • Shekhar Krishnan, 6.805 TA, for also forcing us to think long and hard about the thesis of our paper, and for offering feedback on our draft and other submissions. • Mike Fischer and Les Perelman, readers and reviewers of our early ideas. • Kipp Jones of Skyhook Wireless, as well as Hari Balakrishnan and the other readers of csail-related who responded to our request for contacts at Skyhook.

About the title The phrase “Location is everything” is a maxim of real estate, presumably related to the maxim coined by British real estate developer Harold Samuel: “There are three things you need in property, these are: location, location, and location.”1

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http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Land-Securities-PLC-Company-History. html

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Contents Title Page . . . . . Abstract . . . . . . Acknowledgements Contents . . . . . . List of Figures . .

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