Location-based apps thrive despite privacy concerns

Fifty-eight percent of consumers who have a smart device use location-based applications, despite concerns about safety and third-party use of their personal information for marketing purposes, according to a survey from ISACA.

Many have concerns or incomplete information about geolocation, which uses data acquired from a computer or mobile device to identify a physical location:

  • Top concerns include third-party use of personal information for marketing purposes (24%) and strangers knowing too much about people’s activities (24%)
  • Personal safety is the next biggest concern (21%)
  • 43% of people do not read the agreements on apps before downloading them, and of those who do read the agreements, 25% believe these agreements are not clear about how location information is being used.

“Like any other kind of information-sharing, location-based apps can be tremendously convenient but also risky. Knowledge is power. People should educate themselves so they can understand how their data is being used or know how to disable this feature,” said Marios Damianides, partner, Advisory Services, at Ernst & Young. “Businesses that collect location-based data have a responsibility, too. They need to define an ethical governance policy and communicate it transparently.”

Applications with geolocation capabilities typically offer benefits such as precise navigation, location-based discount coupons or easy information sharing through features like social check-ins. Close to one-third (32%) of consumers in ISACA’s survey use location-based apps more than they did a year ago.

Most popular uses of location-based apps

The location-based activities most frequently done on a smartphone, tablet or laptop are getting directions via applications using the respondent’s current location (59%), and tagging photos on social media, dating or photo-sharing sites such as Facebook or instagram (44%).

Interestingly, the next most popular activity is disabling location-based features on select apps and services (38%). According to ISACA, malicious use of geolocation data can put both an individual and an enterprise at risk when personal information like gender, race, occupation and financial history are combined with information from a GPS and geolocation tags.

Tips to follow for staying informed about geolocation services:

  • Read mobile app agreements to see what information you are sharing.
  • Only enable geolocation when the benefits outweigh the risk.
  • Understand that others can track your current and past locations.
  • Think before posting tagged photos to social media sites.
  • Embrace the technology, and educate yourself and others.

The complete survey is available here (registration required).

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