LBS, consent

Steinfield’s article on location based services gives a useful overview of prominent technologies, applications and issues related to the domain. Questions of privacy and ethics are raised in the article, but the date of the article means that the most pressing aspects of LBS and privacy have yet to arrive. Indeed it seems that Steinfeld does not forecast the ubiquity of smartphones that we’re experiencing in the present. With current context in mind, I want to briefly revisit some of the questions of privacy raised by the author.

Steinfield cites a set of principles regarding privacy: Notice, Choice, Consent, Anonymynity, Access and Security. With these in mind, I started thinking about what kinds of options we had in terms of communication today. While it is certainly possible to live without a cell phone, it is pretty rare and largely inconvenient, especially amongst my generation. It is expected that we be reachable at all times, and I have heard employment counsellours telling clients that a cell phone is pretty necessary to get a job. I don’t have a smart phone myself, but most of my friends do, and they’ve become a less expensive option than many more basic models of late. But when we opt-in to a smart phone, does that mean we have to (to borrow lazily from Gramsci) consent to our own domination? Is it just that in order to be successful, to be able to communicate, we have to give up a large part of our privacy? Does this model of consent really respect the needs of all parties involved? Does it matter?



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