Thursday, April 7, 2011

News: Experts recommend stronger protections for "Geodata"

Interesting article: Personal 'Geo Data' as Sensitive as Private Genetic Information, Experts Argue

Currently, no consensus exists for the definition of "sensitive data" in data protection and privacy law either in the EU or the USA. However, given the status of both regions as major trading partners it is essential in the digital age that such consensus is formed soon while legislation is in a transitional period. Consistent legislation would not only protect consumers and sellers, but also improve confidence across the whole of e-commerce and mobile computing.

That's perfectly true and reasonable. But I'm less thrilled about the example of why it might be sensitive:

Jessen points out in what particular situation geo-tracking might be most sensitive. "The intrusion and loss of integrity related to the processing of geographic location data are apparent when customers are subject to constant monitoring or when geographic location data are combined with other sensitive or demographic data, such as the location of bars, casinos, red-light districts," she says. She adds that "Personal profiles are established for behavioural advertising purposes on this basis." Even anonymised location data might compromise and individual's privacy, so it too must be subsumed in new privacy legislation.

Red light districts? Once again, privacy is not just for people who have something to hide, news writers and legislators. Surely, someone can come up with some other convincing reasons for geodata to be sensitive that don't make it sound like you're protecting only compulsive gamblers, alcoholics, and others who could be conceived of as doing something not entirely socially appealing? Especially if you're then going to try to convince the US to provide consistent legislation, it seems some other examples could be helpful in making the case.