Managing public location data

Mobile gps navigation, travel destination, location and positioning concept


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I am an active user of geolocation data on my smartphone. I take public transport, both at home, and on my travels. My GPS must be active for my transit app, which I use heavily, to update me on my bus schedules and routes. I also like to tag my location on Facebook; I’ve found this to be very useful when I’m on holidays, as it allows me to accurately label the names and locations of museums, galleries, and so forth when I upload my digital images to my cloud server. I use Google Maps frequently to find walking routes to various locations, even if these routes are sometimes overly circuitous. I am aware of the privacy concerns that people have about this type of tracking data, but I must admit that convenience and functionality win the argument for me.

This article by Fareena Sultan and Syagnik Banerjee discusses how marketers can use and manage geolocation data. Proximity marketing is one of these uses: Stores deploy beacons that send Bluetooth alerts to subscribed customers to push products. Geo-fencing extends this further by creating a zone around a business to push alters to mobile devices of subscribers. I don’t subscribe to these types of services, as this is rather too much information that I am willing to share, and also because I practice minimalism and thus am careful to avoid impulse buying.

Vigilant Marketing Intelligence is another use of geolocation data: As an example, if I post a picture on Instagram of a meal I’ve eaten at a restaurant and include the restaurant’s name, I may receive a private response from that restaurant, or a public post, and my post may be shared by that restaurant. I may be invited by that restaurant to participate in a survey, post a review, and so forth. This is an area I need to monitor, given what I have said above about tagging my location in Facebook. I do like to support restaurants that have vegan options, which is why I tag food at times, but I must admit that I’m not always comfortable with the resharing of this content, so I’m being more vigilant about when I do this.

The authors discuss the privacy implications of collecting geolocation data: It’s important to understand that this type of increased monitoring warrants a corresponding increased attention to privacy needs. Once a customer chooses to participate in a social media sharing system, attention has to be dedicated to securing data storage and providing the user access to information that has been collected by brands and processed on their behalf. The article provides some useful advice on how companies can protect customer privacy, and how they should communicate with their customers.

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