In my last post, I outlined the concept of location privacy and gave some examples of how you can be tracked when you’re out and and about. You may say, “So, what? What do I care if people know where I’m going? I’m not doing anything wrong.” Maybe so, in your eyes. But in the post-9/11 climate, there’s a hyper-sensitivity toward anything that could be construed as terrorist activity. Not only that, but anyone who may have it in for you could cause you no end of trouble. The EFF document provides this insight:
The systems discusssed [in my previous post] have the potential to strip away locational privacy from individuals, making it possible for others to ask (and answer) the following sorts of questions by consulting the location databases:
- Did you go to an anti-war rally on Tuesday?
- A small meeting to plan the rally the week before?
- At the house of one “Bob Jackson”?
- Did you walk into an abortion clinic?
- Did you see an AIDS counselor?
- Have you been checking into a motel at lunchtimes?
- Why was your secretary with you?
- Did you skip lunch to pitch a new invention to a VC? Which one?
- Were you the person who anonymously tipped off safety regulators about the rusty machines?
- Did you and your VP for sales meet with ACME Ltd on Monday?
- Which church do you attend? Which mosque? Which gay bars?
- Who is my ex-girlfriend going to dinner with?
Are you beginning to get the idea? Pretty scary, if you ask me. So what do you do?
We can’t stop the cascade of new location-based digital services. Nor would we want to — the benefits they offer are impressive. What urgently needs to change is that these systems need to be built with privacy as part of their original design…
Our contention is that the easiest and best solution to the locational privacy problem is to build systems which don’t collect the data in the first place.
How is that possible? More in Part 3.