Security

Location Data Sharing is Dumb on Many Levels

I see a lot of friends and family on the social networks freely sharing their location. I can understand why they would, but I'll never approve.

Call me paranoid, because I am in this case. People share their precise coordinates because they think their peers will find it cool that they are at Disney Land or in a posh restaurant in the North End of Boston. Share on Facebook and Twitter that you are currently at such-and-such a cafe in Rome and peeps are bound to be jealous over the savvy world traveler you've become.

I get it.

But while I will let it known what state I'm in during my travels, I never share my exact location. At the worst, I risk getting mugged. At the least, I risk running into people who annoy me because I told them where to find me.

I can tell you I will never, ever give in on this point. But ISACA, an independent, nonprofit, global association for information governance, control, security and audit professionals, tells me that someday soon I'll no longer have a choice.

That revelation comes from this story from my colleague Anh Nguyen, who writes:

The value of location-based data to businesses is so great that soon users will not be able to opt out, an IT security expert has warned.

Businesses can use location-based data to increase their revenue and reduce their costs, and as a result will make it increasingly harder for users to keep their data private, said Richard Hollis, who serves on the ISACA Government and Regulatory Advocacy Subcommittee (GRA).

"I believe we are on the cusp of losing the opportunity to opt in and opt out [of location-based data services]," Hollis told the ICT Knowledge Transfer Network conference 'A Fine Balance 2011: Location and Cyber Privacy in the Digital Age' in London today.

Examples of how companies are using geo-location data to increase revenue and reduce costs include O2 and Virgin Media.

O2 is hoping to increase its revenue through direct contextually-relevant marketing, while Virgin Media manages its engineers more efficiently using a mobile workforce management system from TOA Technologies that gives it greater visibility of its workers, while offering customers more accurate customer appointment windows.

"'Where are you?' is the question that businesses are asking today," Hollis said.

To illustrate how businesses value location-based data, Hollis revealed how he had gone to five banks to ask for a bank card without an RFID chip in it - only to find that none of the five could offer it.

"Geo-location data equals cash. It is even more valuable than credit card information," he said.

A lot of people won't care about this, because in the ego-driven age of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, privacy is freely and willfully tossed aside.

I can certainly be accused of such behavior. Anyone who follows me on these networks knows I have a loud presence.

But location sharing is where I draw the line.

If we lose that choice to benefit businesses, we're crossing a dangerous line where the potential consequences will run from the embarrassing to the tragic.

I hope I'm wrong. But I don't think I am.

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