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27 January 2011, 14:48

Microsoft offers advice on location privacy

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In recognition of international Data Privacy Day (28 January) and based on a survey it commissioned from Cross-Tab Marketing Services in December 2010, Microsoft is offering advice to consumers on how to protect themselves against threats resulting from the use of location awareness, found in an increasing range of hardware devices and used by many social networking sites.

Zoom A Microsoft presentation summary of the findings of the "Location-based Services Usage & Perception Survey".
Source: Microsoft
The survey of 1,500 people in the US, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and Germany, entitled the "Location-based Services Usage & Perception Survey", was designed to evaluate consumers' understanding and use of location-based services. In a post on his blog, Brendon Lynch, Chief Privacy Officer at Microsoft, says that consumers clearly see the benefit of location based services, but are concerned about privacy and the use to which such data is put.

Microsoft provides a list of guidelines to help consumers maintain their privacy while using location based services; these include such advice as paying close attention to location settings on phones and web sites, only enabling any geo-tagging features on digital cameras when really needed, and only sharing location data with close and trusted friends and family.

The relatively recent inclusion of GPS in mobile phones has made it possible easily to trace individuals' movements; geo-social networking sites such as Gowalla, Foursquare, Brightkite and Google Latitude, make use of this information to facilitate users' social activities. In general, it is younger people who make the most use of location-based services and it is this age group which exhibits naivety about the possible dangers of sharing personal information with the world at large.


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