What Can People Do with Your Spatial Data?: Socio-Ethical Scenarios

What Can People Do with Your Spatial Data?: Socio-Ethical Scenarios

Roba Abbas (University of Wollongong, Australia), Katina Michael (University of Wollongong, Australia) and M. G. Michael (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1016-1.ch009


Location-Based Services (LBS) provide value-added solutions to users based on location or position information and other contextual data. They enable the collection of GPS data logs or location chronicles, and may be deployed on a range of devices, many of which presently come in the form of commercially available product solutions with corresponding applications. This chapter presents the outcomes of an observational study of LBS users, which was designed to gauge user perspectives in relation to LBS socio-ethical dilemmas. The focus is on the outcomes of a spatial analysis exercise, which resulted in the development of a series of scenarios (in map format) that demonstrate varying LBS usability contexts. The scenarios range across various risk levels, and can be used as further input into consultative practices that are centered on the socio-ethical implications of LBS usage. Additionally, the results of the LBS observational study can be utilized to inform the need for LBS regulation. Future research directions are proposed, allowing for the study to be extended to wider contexts.
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Background: Willingness To Disclose Location Information

This chapter, in essence, focuses on the socio-ethical dilemmas associated with LBS usage, from the perspective of the users themselves. Literature in this domain is primarily focused on location disclosure amongst social relations, such as friends and family, and specifically on the willingness of users to reveal location information to individuals, both within their social circle and extending also to strangers.

Prior ethics and social implications literature address the complexities associated with the themes of control, trust, privacy and security. These complexities arise from the intimate relationships between those themes and their sporadic presentation in relevant scholarship. There are few studies that simultaneously cover all four themes. Specifically, there is a lack of research that covers the socio-ethical dilemmas and usability related factors of location tracking and monitoring. Whilst previous studies have addressed one or more themes related to control, trust, privacy and security, in many cases they have not done so concurrently and/or explicitly.

Several studies have, however, been conducted that concentrate specifically on the attitudes of users with respect to location information disclosure, monitoring and tracking amongst social relations, which may include friends, parents, other family members, employers, and strangers (Levin et al. 2008, pp. 81-82), all of whom can be considered “friends” in the social networking environment. A major focus of these studies is on the collection of GPS/location data, and on the readiness of a user to disclose location information to members in a given social context, in addition to the consequent social implications of revealing such sensitive personal location information and of tracking activities in general. These studies have been identified and discussed in Abbas (2011), and are summarized in Table 1. It is noteworthy that this chapter is not intended to provide a complete literature review on location disclosure amongst social relations; rather a number of representative examples are given.

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