Location-Based Tracking Technology And its Use By Merchants, Government Agencies and Security Enforcement Agencies

Merchants, Government Agencies and Security Enforcement Agencies Collecting Data Using Location Based Technologies

            The location-based technologies employ a real-time geo data from the Smartphones to provide security, information or entertainment (Goodrich, 2013). Activating the location-based services in one’s Smartphones allows the user to get information regarding the location of restaurants, entertainment spots, and to get assistance in case of emergencies. In addition to the users of the mobile devices, a number of merchants, security agencies and other organizations are collecting millions of data from the users of mobile devices with active location-based technologies in their devices.

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            According to (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, 1994) a number of merchants are collecting huge information from unsuspecting shoppers. Many users of Smartphones have the advantage of buying goods online. Moreover, security agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation are sending thousands of National Security Letters (NSLs) to companies requesting information of the mobile users. Such security companies rely on location-based data and other personal information stored by such companies. In addition, the mobile carriers in the United States are mandated to determine the location of its users in order to conform to the FCC accuracy and reliability standards (Traupman, 2001). The other government agencies that use location-based technologies are the forensics companies such as the Cellebrite and Katana Forensics.

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How Merchants, Government and Security Agencies Use Location-Based Data

            Many users of Smartphones, who active the location-based services in their mobile devices allow the collection of their personal information by merchants, government and security enforcement agencies. Online shoppers who activate location-based technologies in their devices allow such retailers to collect customer data through the cookies in the browsers and the email addresses. Such information can be utilized to track the precise location and customer shopping patterns. Moreover, local companies who collect location-based technologies rely on the consumer information collected to provide location-based mobile marketing (Goodrich, 2013). For example, if a service provider upon analysis of location requests for an individual determines that such an individual uses location-based services to locate movie theatres, the merchant can offer ads to push location based coupons to such an individual.

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The mobile carriers such as AT&T are mandated to collect precise location information of the mobile users (Traupman, 2001). Such information can be employed upon request by security agencies in analysis of the movements of the users for the purpose of security provision. Some logistics providing companies rely on location-based services to locate the positions of their employees in multiple locations.

Why Location-Based Tracking Technologies Are a Threat to Individual Privacy

            The fact that merchants, government and security agencies collect a substantial amount of data poses a great deal of threat to the privacy of users of location-based technologies (Traupman, 2001). The myriad of information places the users at the mercy of the merchants, government and security agencies, since they are oblivious of the type of information collected, how it is shared or used and for how long such data can be stored. Some of the information that is collected includes user profiles, their favourite restaurants, and café and retail stores. Location-based information may be used to infringe into individual privacy and security. When substantial information that is collected is combined with the browser data and offline information, they can be used to stalk or in user profiling.

Steps One Can Take to Manage One’s Personal Data

            According to (Boyles, Smith, & Madden, 2012) about 17% of mobile phone owners use them for browsing the internet, therefore ensuring proper privacy and personal data management is important. In order to secure one’s personal data, one can take a number of steps. One step is to ensure that while browsing the internet or making online purchases, one should avoid sharing personal information to individuals whom they do not know. In doing so, it prevents unwanted access to one’s personal data. Secondly, there is need to ensure that the data is encrypted in a way that can only be understood by the mobile device user. This allows only for a restricted access to the data stored in the mobile device. The other steps include enabling mobile locks, installing and remote data swipe. This will enable one to erase data remotely incase of theft. Finally, it is important that one activates only location-based services when using them and deactivates them when not being used.

Whether Individuals Should Protect Themselves from Location-Based Tracking Technologies

            Although the location-based tracking technologies can lead to an infringement to individual privacy and loss of important personal data, the service is important. Individuals should embrace it, but must exercise proper security measures to protect loss of personal data. The use of location-based tracking can be very beneficial especially as a security mechanism in rescue and child surveillance.

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