Business Anywhere Blog

Mobilizing the Business and Business of Mobile

Location tracking raises privacy concerns.

with 3 comments

Can you think back to a time when you didn’t have a mobile phone? Or when you didn’t have a GPS system in your car? Well, those were the good times. Ah the joy of getting lost and no way to get in touch with your friend to help you out. You had your privacy and you had an excuse to show up late for a meeting or avoid your partner’s wrath with a simple “I got lost”. Today, mobile phones and GPS systems are ubiquitous. Now you no longer have that excuse. With new location tracking technologies, now not only you don’t have an excuse but your boss or your partner knows you don’t have one. Google recently released Latitude that allows you to share your location with your friends. This is all fair if you are the one in control. However, what happens when on your next job you get handed a Blackberry with Latitude loaded. What will you do: a) return the Blackberry, b) turn Latitude off, c) do nothing?

Or, take Sense Networks. This company got year’s worth of GPS tracking records of 4 million users in San Francisco from one of its partners and plotted where the various users were at any given time. Though the company did not have user name or address, it could based on where the phone was at night, assign zip codes based GPS co-ordinates and comparing them with other real estate data. Initially the company was focused on making this technology available to consumers but it quickly realized it had a bigger market with businesses who would like nothing better than to provide you with location based information related to their products. It even did a project with a advertising company Kinetic wherein they tracked a group of consumers with common behavior – which Sense Networks calls a tribe – like say visiting a particular bar with a beer promotion. Based on the data, Kinetic managed to convince its brewing client to extend the promotion to other establishment which the tribe also visited. The early results according to Sense Networks are promising.

This is just one example and Sense on purpose did not get the users’ demographic and personal details. However, they are able to “sense” the demographic data based on the patterns they notice by following a user’s GPS trail. But, if Sense could track a person, though anonymous, through just their cell phone tracking software, consider what would happen if marketers and other companies are able to get to not just your GPS trail, but also your demographic and personal details. So, next time you forget your cell phone somewhere, just think that you are in stealth mode and enjoy your freedom, because sooner or later they will track you down :).

You can read more about how Sense Networks track and uses the data in this article on Business Week.


Written by dvdand

March 6, 2009 at 5:00 am

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. that is a good idea!


    March 6, 2009 at 8:39 am

  2. I think this could be used for other thing that are legal and sensible.


    March 9, 2009 at 9:55 am

  3. I’m still worried about the privacy of the user.


    March 13, 2009 at 8:18 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: