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Privacy 101- Location, Location, Location

September 09 2010

camerainvasion200pxThe real estate axiom of it’s all about location, location, location has taken on a new meaning in the second decade of the 21st century. Much of what this generation of the digital world is about is geolocation.

Geolocation, also called geotagging, is the practice of associating a digital resource with a precise physical location. Usually given in terms of geospatial metadata, most commonly longitude and latitude coordinates, this technology adds a layer of information to an object, like a picture, and additional ways for users to search, organize and correlate data. You most likely have used location-based technology at least once- either with a GPS in your car, wireless network on your laptop or with your mobile device (formerly known as a cell phone).

This technology has provided many benefits, particularly to urban users, in getting us to places without getting too lost, avoiding traffic jams as much as possible and being able to map a location in a photo you would like to visit.

Business applications abound as well. If you are using a mobile application like so many of us are, Internet marketers and service providers, like Internet television, are able to deliver us content based on our location such as country, region/state, city, metro code/zip code, organization, IP address, ISP or other criteria. This advancement has some beneficial uses like fraud prevention. An identity thief could be thwarted because suspicious payment transactions are identified in real time by correlations between an IP address and additional information (billing records, email header, etc.).

Many businesses, large and small are racing to offer services to let people report their physical location online. Why? So people can connect with friends or receive coupons. I was at lunch the other day and my companion downloaded a coupon to use as we stood at the register.

Advertisers are thrilled that they are able to easily target their products and services to people who can use them. In fact, when I was reading this New York Times article on location-based services, the right hand side bar had ads for products based in San Diego.

The down side? That is up to you. To those of us under 30, there probably doesn’t seem to be one except for letting criminals know when you are gone. The Please Rob Me website talks about over-sharing and location awareness in that regard. To those of us more experienced, do you really want everyone to know where you are and what you are doing? Just remember that information you reveal about your location is an electronic record that in some manner is retrievable for the rest of your life (as technology stands right now).

The question really comes down to how much of your private life do you want to have made public? That’s a personal decision and one that I encourage you to make intentionally rather than just going with whatever default setting is on a website. To that end, if you haven’t already done so, you can choose your Facebook location privacy settings here. You need to decide about a couple of geo-location features- Places I Check Into (I set mine to "Only Me" in the customize menu) and People Here Now (the box is checked 'Enable' as the default). Do what you will- just be sure you make it your choice!

It is imperative to stay aware, alert and active to control and protect your privacy- however you define it!

 

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Darity Wesley is CEO and Legal Counsel for Privacy Solutions, Inc. a San Diego based consulting firm. She is also an RE Technology Content Contributor, to learn more about Darity and to see an archive of her content, click here. .

 

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