Who is looking out for your location data privacy?

By Natasha Léger | Published May 21, 2013

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) recently released a report rating technology companies’ stewardship of users’ personal data. Twitter and Sonic Inc. received high marks while Verizon, AT&T and Apple received low or no marks. The EFF looked at six privacy best practices categories which include:

-       "require a warrant for content,"

-       "tell users about government data demands,"

-       "publish transparency reports,"

-       “publishes law enforcement guidelines,”

-       “fights for users’ privacy rights in court,” and

-       “fights for users’ privacy rights in Congress.”

These privacy best practices are from more of a legal and advocacy perspective.

The report clearly puts the wireless companies and the handset manufacturers in the “least respectful of privacy” category and Twitter and Google in the “most respectful of privacy” category.

When it comes to location data privacy, the issue is a bit more complex than these six categories. When it comes to location data privacy, there are questions of how the data is collected, used, and shared. And most importantly there is the question of who controls the location data. Is it the wireless carrier, the device manufacturer, the application provider, or the other parties behind the scenes that the consumer never sees?

This infographic on “Location Uses and Privacy: A Mobile Perspective” demonstrates the complexity around location data and how it moves between different players.


The Location Forum has just released Location Data Privacy: Guidelines, Assessment & Recommendations—the first industry-created set of best practices for improving how location data is gathered, used and managed along with a ‘scorecard’ for measuring a company’s privacy risk level.

These guidelines provide a framework for increased transparency around location data management, which in turn builds trust with customers on how their location data is being used and shared. The Location Data Privacy Risk & Transparency Assessment  causes managers to step back and evaluate their processes, and lays out a roadmap to greater transparency and risk management.

Perhaps these technology companies should try taking the Location Forum’s Location Data Privacy Risk & Transparency Assessment, and see if they fare any better than they did on the EFF report.