New mobile telecommunications industry guidelines and consumer tips set benchmark for Location Based Services

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) today released new consumer tips and industry guidelines to help promote the safety and privacy of people using location-based services (LBS) offered on mobile devices.

 

The industry guidelines set a benchmark for the responsible provision of LBS and focus on user safety and privacy, including consideration of how a service may be misused. They are accompanied by ‘consumer tips’ providing privacy and safety guidance applicable to all users of social media, including consumers of LBS.

 

AMTA Chief Executive Officer Chris Althaus said: “A number of commercial location-based services using mobile technology are already on the market with more services expected soon.

 

“LBS provide exciting opportunities for consumers and business, however, although the benefits of LBS are expected to be substantial, the application of such services means there is the potential for misuse. Our industry has set practical steps that we believe should be followed by all Location Service Providers (LSPs) to help ensure that customer privacy and safety are adequately safeguarded,” he said.

 

LSPs include AMTA members who offer LBS services directly to consumers or provide the service through third parties on their networks. AMTA members apply these Guidelines to their services.

 

There are also a substantial number of non-AMTA LSPs providing LBS directly to consumers without the carriers or mobile operators having any visibility or control of the service. For example, consumers may download services/applications directly from the internet.

 

Mr Althaus said the Guidelines are intended to provide a benchmark for responsible service provision for all LSPs.

 

The Guidelines focus on ‘passive’ LBS because AMTA believes that the potential for misuse is greatest for this type of service. Passive LBS are services which, after initial user consent and service activation, allow identified third parties to view the location of that user’s device without explicitly notifying the user each time their device is being located. In this sense, the user is essentially a ‘passive’ participant in the location process after providing their initial consent.

 

The LBS guidelines cover LBS for business; mobile location-based advertising; friend location-based services (for known friends and closed user groups); anonymous chat and dating location-based services (for over 18s requiring age verification); mobile games for under 18s and over 18-year-olds.

 

AMTA’s industry guidelines are based on the following safety principles:

 

Must be consent based. Every LBS must be provided on an opt-in basis with a specific request from a user for the service. Consent for one service does not mean consent for any other service. LBS services should allow a customer to opt-out, stop or temporarily suspend services.

 

 

 

Must conform with all relevant privacy legislation. LBS services must not be used to undermine customer privacy and must not be used for any form of unauthorised surveillance. The service must be designed to guard against consumers being located without their knowledge.

 

 

 

Must allow consumers to maintain full control. Customers must be able to control who uses their location information and when that is appropriate. A customer must have easy access to a list of the identities of all parties authorised to locate their mobile device via the LBS. The guidelines provide for the sending of alerts to customers to remind them their mobile can be located by other parties.

 

 

 

LBS must be easy for a consumer to stop or suspend temporarily. LBS services should allow the user to easily review and control who can locate their mobile device.

 

 

 

Age verification required for some services. The guidelines stipulate that some services, such as anonymous chat and introduction or dating location-based services, only be made available to people whose age has been verified as over 18 years.

 

Mr Althaus said AMTA’s consumer advice informed LBS customers to be cautious who they shared their location information with and suggested they restrict it to friends.

 

“We are advising that people restrict their settings on any LBS applications to only those they know and trust because if their information is publicly available anyone can see where they are,” he said.

 

“LBS should allow the customer to stay in control of their information and choose to make their whereabouts known to those who they know and trust. Our strong message is that if your service does not offer these privacy protection features, then ditch it and find another service that provides these protections.”

 

Mr Althaus also cautioned that although LBS could be useful for people to check if their family or friends had reached a destination they should not rely on it because it only works when the handset is switched on and in a network/WiFi coverage area.

 

For more information contact Randal Markey, Communications Manager, (02) 6239 6555 or 0421 240 550