Protecting privacy in the age of location-based services
January 28, 2011, 4:34am PST | Length: 00:06:06
At a Churchill Club event in Mountain View, Calif., executives from Silicon Valley discuss the delicate line companies walk between protecting privacy and offering better location-based services.
Background noise Speaker 1: So, I'm in town visiting from New York, used my Droid today, for example, Google latitude, found where I was, I needed to find a Starbucks, found a local Starbucks, connected, gave me driving directions, I used my rental car, drove there, love the access. I'm curious, as a consumer, sort of where the line is of saying, I can have my cake and eat it too. I want this access, I want to be connected, I want everything at my fingertips, and at the same time, I want to protected, and know that nobody is using my information to ultimately harm me. So, I'm just curious if you guys can talk about that, sort of where the line is with the responsibility as a consumer to have that access, but also to be protected. Speaker 2: Yeah. And if I may, I'd love to piggyback on your question there, and frame the, the context of your answers also, a bit forward looking, so we're, we've been talking a lot about mobile phones, but as everyone in this room knows, there's a lot of location based innovation around other kinds of mobile devices, cars, and sneakers even, so as we're beginning to, yeah, thank you, as we're beginning to, to talk about, about where that, that line is, let's, let's also think about all these new location based products and services that are coming out. Speaker 1: Sorry, just one piece I left off, talking about companies that are innovating much faster than the law is keeping up with them, that seems like it's a continuing evolution, right? And there are companies that are in this that are for profit, trying to make money, so just how does all that fit together to ultimately access the consumer, or provide the consumer access and protection, at the same time. Speaker 3: I think that, that you have, that there's no, there's no perfect solution, there's no single solution, I, and we've talked about elements of the solution, I just want to say that I think, you know, that, that the one thing I think consumers do understand, they do understand the advertisement piece, and I'm not sure that the worry of consumers is about advertisements, I mean, Trustee, I think in fact, did some studies in terms of, not the mobile contacts, but general behavioral advertising and the consumers more, or less, understand that free is not truly free, that it's advertising supported, and that involves the collection of information for the customization of ads. I think one of the big things that, and I think consumers accept that, consumers understand advertising, they understand targeted advertising, I think, and I think they're prepared to take that part of the deal, I think they have a great fear on what are the other uses to be made of the data, and I think they have a great fear about the, sort of inferences beyond the, the delivery of that ad, particularly when you go into insurance, employment, credit, which, you know, are three of the critical things in our lives. I also think that companies have an obligation, Laura mentioned, privacy by design, you know, to think about how much they collect, and to think about how to minimize how much they collect, I mean that's one element of the, the equation, so that if you are collecting it, delivering the ad, preparing that profile, perhaps not on a strictly personalized basis, there's, there's no perfect, single solution to this problem. Speaker 2: Yeah. I mean, but there are some real common sense, guiding principles, so, you know, if a consumer is, is, you know, enlisting a, an online service to tell them what the weather's going to be, we give an example in the, in the privacy framework that you would expect the, the service to look at your location, to give you an accurate reading, but you would not expect them to, you know, take your contact list, or look at your call history, or something like that, I mean you know, the kind of common sense approaches that you are designing a service that consumers understand what the service is, and you're only collecting the information that you need to reasonably deliver the service. And, and you know, on a bright note, you know, where consumers have been given choices about the kinds of ads that they see, many consumers have adjusted the kinds of ads that they see, which is great feedback for anybody trying to advertise to those, those consumers to have, but not in fact, decided that they, that they don't want to see any ads, you know, maybe some users will be in a position to say that in the future, but not that's not been what, what's been happening so far. Speaker 1: I have to play devil's advocate here, because I, I love the idea of fair information principles, I love the idea that of privacy by design, I, that, the first time I heard that, I thought it was great a concept, but, but I think we're being naive if we believe the in, companies will only go as far as what's, what's exactly required to provide that service to the consumer, that, that, that, that can't be true by the law of economics, right? So much of what we do here, especially here in the Valley is based on advertising, it's based on knowledge of who's using our services, why not collect that extra piece of information, so that maybe that service we imagine in the future can be better enabled by the data we're collecting today. And so, I, I, I would push back that this is, that is an, that this is inherent to the way people inaudible Speaker 2: Look, I mean the example that was just given, that's an example that we mention as a commonly accepted practice, for which you don't have to give notice, if you're doing something to improve the design of your web site, or to, to kind of tabulate consumer reactions to your own service, that's a legitimate, and kind of expected use of the data associated with just providing the service itself, but it's when you get into the things that are just more far afield, like what I mentioned about downloading a contact list from someone's phone, who checks your weather service, that I, I think you know, you do have some, some reason to say, question whether that's privacy by design.
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