‘You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every moment scrutinized.’ (Orwell 2008, p. 3).
It is without question that the idea of having your every movement documented and available to an unknown authority is chilling. Yet despite this reality, modern humanity readily subscribes to this form of surveillance. Through use of mobile devices with geolocation technology an obscene amount of data regarding an individual’s activity can be captured.
Geolocation is a devices capability to use satellite technology to track an objects (and subsequently a person’s) whereabouts (Mura 2013, p. 79). Whilst the conceptualization behind location tracking is well-meaning and idealistic. On an individual level consumers receive immense benefits from GPS navigation when using applications such as maps, weather reports or transport services. And on a societal level the prospect of using such devices to assist in emergency response, health care and security, work to reinforce the adoption of rampant geolocation apparatuses (Furini & Tamanini 2015, p. 9796). Regardless of these apparent benefits, the possibility of foreign third parties being privy to your activities can lead down a rabbit hole of alarming worst case scenarios. Anyone read 1984?
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One of the most common arguments put forward in order to convince users that unrestrained location tracking is worthwhile, is the claim that consumer industries can use this information to target marketing and advertising to specific audiences (Mura 2013, p. 80). In theory the idea of having individually tailored ads based on your surrounding area sounds convincing. Nonetheless, a recent survey conducted by Mura (2013) revealed that public opinion refuted the notion of targeted advertising on the basis that the information may be misused and more importantly that restricted advertisement might mean they’d miss out on a good deal which may otherwise not present itself in a tailored marketing campaign.
With 2.32 billion smart phone users across the globe in 2017 and growing steadily more numerous (Statista 2017). The concern surrounding privacy breaches and regulation of mobile devices is not disparate. Yet, despite the vast amounts of literature outlining the privacy issues faced by consumers. The cost of unchecked surveillance does not appear to outweigh the benefits of mobile device features that require 24/7 tracking. Ultimately it is apparent that convenience is one of modern civilizations greatest values.
However, there are two key considerations that should be highlighted when discussing human’s consent to location tracking. A study undertaken by Furini and Tamanini (2015) identified that users must feel they have authorization over subscribing to geolocation applications, as opposed to being blind sighted with surveillance.
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Furthermore, after interviewing members of the public, it was noted that consumers require obvious benefits when enabling the collection of location data. Individuals were open to applications tracking their movements as long as they gained from it (Furini & Tamanini 2015, p. 9823). Whilst it appears that many are content to continue allowing geolocation abilities to monitor their daily movements, it is not without conditions that we accept it. Perhaps once we become more active in assessing how our freedom is open to invasion, stricter regulations can be put into place ensuring individuals right to privacy.
Furini, M & Tamanini, V 2015, ‘Location privacy and public metadata in social media platforms: attitudes, behaviors and opinions’, Multimedia Tools and Applications, vol. 74, no. 21, pp. 9795-826, doi:10.1007/s11042-014-2151-7
‘Glenn Greenwald: Why privacy matters’ 2014, YouTube, TED, 10 October, 1 August 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcSlowAhvUk&feature=youtu.be>.
Mura, R 2013, ‘Geolocation and targeted advertising: Making the case for heightened protections to address growing privacy concerns’, Buffalo Intellectual Property Law Journal, vol. 9, pp. 77-88, retrieved on 9 August 2017, <http://www.heinonline.org.ezproxy-f.deakin.edu.au/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/biplj9&div=6>.
Orwell, G 2008, 1984, Penguin Books, London, UK.
Statista 2017, Number of smartphone users worldwide from 2014 to 2020 (in billions), Statista, retrieved on 8 August 2017, <https://www.statista.com/statistics/330695/number-of-smartphone-users-worldwide/>.