Location Privacy and Location-Aware Computing, Duckham and Kulik (2006)

Duckham and Kulik (2006) introduce the importance of privacy in location-aware computing, and present emergent themes in the proposed solutions to related concerns. In their section contextualizing privacy research, the authors present privacy and transparency as opposing virtues (p. 3). I’m curious about the distinction that would motivate the valuation of one over the other. For instance, many would feel uncomfortable with the details of their personal finances being public (myself included), but would advocate for the openness of business or government finances, or even those of the super-rich. Is power the distinguishing characteristic? Perhaps concerns for person wellbeing or intrusive inferences are less applicable to large organizations, but how do we explain the public response to the Panama or Paradise Papers?

Duckham and Kulik (2006) also posit that greater familiarity and ubiquity of cheap, reliable location-aware technologies will increase public concern for privacy (p. 4). I’m not so convinced–in fact, is it not the opposite? It would seem that during their inception concern for privacy was much higher than it is now. I would argue the pervasiveness of location-aware technologies has generated a reasonable level of comfort with the idea that personal information is always being collected. I would imagine this is evident in the differential use of location-aware technologies in people that have grown up with them.

I appreciated the authors’ discussion of location privacy protection strategies. They provided interesting critique of regulatory, privacy, anonymity, and obfuscation approaches. I would add to the critique of regulatory or policy frameworks based on “consent” that participation in such technologies is becoming less and less optional. Even when participation is completely optional, consent is often ill-informed. It’s clear that the question of privacy in location-aware computing is one with no clear answer.

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