Tracking Wireless Location Privacy: Who Knows Where You Are?
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Variations of location-based services offer consumers the convenience of mapping their daily commute from their automobile, finding nearby restaurants using their mobile phone, or locating and tracking friends from social networks. In each instance, their precise location is identified and recorded. As more cities seek to provide wireless Internet access through municipal Wi-fi networks, some are looking to finance deployment by using the physical location of a mobile device to serve up location-specific advertising. However, consumer privacy advocates worry that this location information can be obtained and misused by would-be hackers or predators, third-party advertisers, or law enforcement agents seeking to use this information without user knowledge or consent.
In 2001, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) urged the Federal Communications Commission to implement strong privacy protections to prevent abuse of wireless users' geographic location information. The CTIA's petition to the FCC echoed a visceral consumer concern that mobile devices could betray their physical location on the street and on the road. CTIA members adopted a privacy standard for mobile phone carriers that required consumer opt-in consent for any type of mobile consumer tracking. The FCC rejected the CTIA's suggestion that those same strong location-privacy protections be extended to the broad spectrum of wireless services, such as wi-fi and other wireless Internet technologies.
Now, a slew of wireless Internet services that operate outside the FCC's wireless location privacy regime are coming to market. Other than mobile phone location information, there seems to be no federal, state or municipal privacy rules that let consumers control how services use and share their location information.
The balanced panel featured: Jed Rice, VP of Market Development for Skyhook Wireless, a Wi-fi positioning technology company; Michael Altschul, Senior Vice President and General Counsel with CTIA, an international trade association representing wireless carriers, suppliers, and providers of wireless services; and Jim Smolen, Vice President of Strategic Alliances for WaveMarket, an innovative wireless services and applications provider.
This event was hosted in conjunction with the Internet Caucus and its Co-Chairs, Senators Burns and Leahy and Congressmen Goodlatte and Boucher, and the Chair of the Wireless Task Force, Congressman Honda.