Geolocation is quickly emerging as a big new platform to build all kinds of cool services on top of. While there’s a whole lot of potential – there’s also growing concern about the privacy implications of this flush of data about where we are. Thus it’s timely that a committee of the US House of Representatives is holding a hearing next week to investigate the issues between commercial use of location data and consumer privacy.
Below you’ll find information about that hearing and five other top stories from the past 24 hours around the web on geolocation, selected with assistance from OneSpot. Speaking of location, watch this space for forthcoming announcements about ReadWriteWeb research reports and events focused on location as a platform.
“It seems that over the years whenever LBS [location based system] technology makes advances into the consumer space the topic of privacy and security creeps up – and for good reason,” writes Glenn Letham of GISuser. Letham first spotted next week’s hearing titled Joint Hearing On “The Collection And Use Of Location Information For Commercial Purposes. (He describes his relationship with the hearing in comments below.) It is scheduled for next Wednesday at 10 AM EST.
We’ve requested the list of hearing witnesses from the committee and will update this post when we find out who will be speaking.
Best Practices Already Being Hashed Out
One likely suspect is Loopt, a very popular location based social network that transmits passive location data to a user’s chosen network of friends and allows them to push selected location updates out into public networks like Facebook and Twitter. Loopt CEO Sam Altman says he doesn’t know if anyone from his company is speaking at the hearing but that Loopt team members have testified before Congress about user privacy before and found it quite productive. Brian R. Knapp, Chief Privacy Officer and General Counsel at Loopt, says he’s been helping people from some other companies prepare for the hearing next week.
Altman says Loopt keeps a close eye out for abuse cases and has instituted warning systems like algorithmic monitoring of user behavior, SMS messages to make sure users know they are tracking their location and postal mail sent to the homes of children who sign in. Altman says Loopt participated extensively in the writing of the CTIA best practices document for user location data.
Does Altman think the location based economy needs some regulation? “I come up on the Libertarian side of government regulation,” he told us, “but it’s bad for everyone if someone is playing fast and loose with location data and something bad happens. Regulation may be too strong a word but we need some understanding industry-wide about how to respect privacy and keep people safe.”
While many location apps are based on explicit “check-ins” by users and others ask users to opt-in to allowing a service to know their location so that location-features may be leveraged, Altman believes that ongoing, passive location tracking will become more common in the future.
“When passive location becomes mainstream,” he told us, “and I think it will because there are so many upsides, over the next 6 months it’s going to become more important that everyone do it the right way.”
Location as a platform and the privacy challenges therein are going to be hot topics this year. Stick with ReadWriteWeb for ongoing coverage.
In other location news today…
MWC: Smaato Eyes Geo-Ad Markets Outside US
GPS BUSINESS NEWS
“Activity in the location-based advertising market is growing rapidly and not just in North America. That’s according to Ramy Yared, managing director of adsmobi, the newly-established media buying arm of mobile advertising firm Smaato…A recent report from JP Morgan’s analyst Imran Kahn forecast that mobile advertising is set to grow 45% to USD3.8 billion in 2010.”
TomTom posts solid Q4 results
GPS BUSINESS NEWS
“TomTom today announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2009. During the fourth quarter 2009 the revenue of the Dutch company was 533 million, up one percent against the previous year…TomTom also gave guidance for 2010: ‘We expect broadly flat revenue and earnings per share in 2010 compared with 2009’, adding that ‘we made our assumptions bearing in mind that free turn-by-turn navigation on some smartphone platforms will be available in our major markets.'”
Ski gloves now record your GPS coordinates
“Austria’s Zanier have announced a ski glove model with integrated GPS. Dubbed the X-Plore.XGX, the gloves help you follow a route or get back to your car along with recording important ski-related info such as altitude, speed and distance.”
ESRI Announces Relationship with Amazon Web Services
GIS and Science
“As part of its commitment to support cloud computing, ESRI is collaborating with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to join the growing community of AWS Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) building services and solutions in the cloud computing environment.”
Waze Partners with Intermap: European Bbasemap + Mobile Community
GPS BUSINESS NEWS
“Geospatial content provider Intermap and user-generated maps and real-time traffic start-up Waze have entered into an agreement where Intermap will supply its European road basemap to Waze and Waze will provide Intermap with live data, consisting of anonymous GPS points – latitude, longitude, and height measurements – sourced from its user’s community. ” Intermap provides geometric datasets and focuses on topography.