A new report on mobile data privacy from location intelligence provider HEROW was driven by a now-famous New York Times story in December of 2019.
That story described location data brokerage systems that offer what is in effect total surveillance for sale, which the report – “Mobile Location in the Age of Privacy” – describes as “highly condemnable.” The report includes data obtained through a survey last November of 1357 respondents.
To counter that, the report says it is looking to “provide guidance to the other side of mobile geolocation” – that is, the use of mobile data to improve user experience, not reselling it. Arguably, HEROW is making the case for its own existence, but the data-backed insights in the report can nevertheless inform the unsettled arena of mobile data privacy.
The report notes that location data is not useful for targeting ads, but also to improve a user’s individual experience – such as helping users arrive home, getting packages delivered or knowing about nearby events of interest.
“In short,” the report says, “there is a way for mobile apps to collect mobile location that is in complete harmony with the privacy by design age.”
From the HEROW report
HEROW Senior Product Marketing Manager Lucas Brechot pointed out via email that the survey showed about a third of users always allow sharing of their location, a third never does, and a third feels that “it depends.”
Millennials and Gen Z are substantially more likely to share their location, while Baby Boomers are the least.
Nearly three quarters of respondents will share their mobile location via an app if they are offered a “clear and easy way to control if and how their data is used.” The location data-powered experiences considered the most valuable include ones that help navigate, recognize fraud, monitor health, retrieve info and supply alerts about nearby events.
Similarly, 70 percent are more likely to share their location if there is a clear explanation why the info is sought and what the user gets in return. The most frequent users of apps are 10 percent likelier to share their location, largely because of an expectation it improves the experience.
But, as the report points out, location data has a high wall to climb in this age of privacy. A bit more than half of all users associated location data with unauthorized surveillance, identity fraud and stalkers. And a significant percentage added “unwanted ads,” burglaries or decreased mobile performance.
Against these negative associations, HEROW makes the case that privacy-oriented users will share their location data if they understand “why,” and can control “when” and “for what purposes.”
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