Many readers will periodically receive a notification from Google Maps to review their location history. Useful? Perhaps. But for whom is this data really gathered? And why?
To be fair, you can view, edit and delete this data anytime. And while Google says it does not share location history or other identifying information with advertisers, it equally says it will use it to serve us more useful advertisements. Who else might be interested in tracking our whereabouts, with or without our consent? And who can we trust?
To help answer such questions, March 2021 saw the Geospatial Commission, together with the UK Research and Innovation’s Sciencewise programme, fund a nine-month study to probe public perceptions about the use of location data. The findings from this dialogue were published in November1 and presented the following month in an online forum hosted by the Alan Turing Institute.
Perhaps inevitably, public concern centred on data breaches and misuse, privacy and discrimination. On the other hand, location data was perceived as most beneficial in areas such as emergencies, planning, health and convenience. Overall, the opportunities and benefits often related to society while risks were focussed on individual impacts.
All credit to the Commission for initiating this dialogue, the findings from which will influence its guidance on location data ethics, to be published this year in support of the UK Geospatial Strategy.2