Ethical responsibility with privacy and location-based data in Apps

The Evolution of Geolocation: From Convenience to Ethical Concerns

source- appedus

An ethical responsibility with privacy and location-based data in Apps

If you told my grandparents that their weekly trips to the bank, pharmacy, farmer’s market and movies could be tracked virtually and stored on a platform, they would have had me committed to a psychiatric ward. But a grandparent in 2018 either participates actively in being tracked online or their kids and grandkids certainly do.

Geolocation is awesome on so many levels. It places us and connects us, and we can use it to literally carve out what we want to experience daily. We draw virtual lines because we want these lines to be constructed. But when those lines are subsequently collected and tracked, that’s when the personal desire for connection bumps up against ethical concerns about how this data is handled.

When social networks, companies, and even governments source our data, it feels icky. It’s been becoming more so in the last few years, and with the fear of surveillance, will we also, in turn, shy away from allowing phones, maps, and apps to communicate our comings and goings?

privacy and location-based data in Apps
source: appedus


To confront this, the industry mindset, not the consumer mindset (us), towards location tracking needs to change. Developing apps that utilize location tracking is not immoral; for many developers, it is simply a way to provide people with the services they increasingly expect to have in place. But the problem of balancing privacy with app functionality is crucial: how does one achieve anonymity yet engage in things like relevance matching?

At a minimum, the app business should know what their location service does, what type of data it collects, and whether that data is shared with affiliates, partners, or third parties.

Claiming ignorance as to the flow of consumer location information is not likely to protect a business from privacy-related liability. Is the data personally identifiable? Will it be shared on a social media platform? Is there a legitimate business reason for the collection, disclosure, and retention of such information?

source: appedus

Location-based information collection and disclosure should be treated as sensitive personal information and treated with respect by the app developer. This includes providing clear disclosures to consumers that communicate what privileged information will be collected and for what purpose.

While there can be some flexibility in how an app business obtains a consumer’s consent to the collection of geolocation data, businesses should bear the burden of demonstrating that they have obtained informed consent to use the location information to provide consumers with their desired benefits (e.g. locate stores and restaurants, share their current location, and navigate to a desired location).


source: appedus

The use of mobile devices by children and young adults also needs to be taken seriously which raises additional privacy concerns. A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon indicated that users with children rated location-sharing technologies significantly more useful than those without children. But that comes with an added level of responsibility.

Besides the consumer and business-related benefits of using location-based apps, as described above – geolocation data can be useful in determining the validity of a transaction. If the user is trying to log in from Melbourne for example, and the last time he logged in was only two hours ago from New York, one might suspect something is fishy. Time can also be of importance; if transactions typically happen between 9 a.m. and 8 pm, an attempt at 4 a.m. could be suspicious.

While privacy concerns are running hotter than ever, the business implications cannot be ignored. If a user does not download an app or allow the app to use location data, mobile commerce will take a hit. To grow ethically and profitably, businesses must address mobile privacy concerns right now and provide users with what they are asking for – more transparency and control over their privacy choices.

In addition to transparency, app developers should also prioritize implementing robust security measures to safeguard the sensitive location data collected. This includes adopting encryption protocols and regularly updating security features to protect against potential breaches. Furthermore, developers need to be vigilant about potential misuse of location data, such as unauthorized access or hacking incidents.

As the landscape of location-based services evolves, it becomes crucial for businesses to establish a culture of ethical responsibility. This involves ongoing education for both developers and users about the importance of privacy, the potential risks associated with location tracking, and the steps taken to mitigate those risks. Striking a balance between providing valuable services and respecting user privacy is not only an ethical imperative but also a strategic necessity for sustainable growth in the mobile app industry.

Source: Appedus


while the utilization of geolocation data offers numerous benefits for consumers and businesses alike, it comes with ethical responsibilities that cannot be overlooked. The mobile app industry must navigate the delicate balance between providing innovative and convenient services and ensuring the protection of user privacy. By prioritizing transparency, security, and ethical practices, businesses can foster trust with their users and contribute to the responsible evolution of location-based technologies in the digital era.


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