Some mobile applications (apps) and games allow you to tell others where you are. For example, many social media applications allow you to type in your location or post your position on a map.

Location based services (LBS) are more sophisticated. LBS are apps that can extract your location information from your mobile device. Some of these LBS may be subscription based and some may be apps that you download to use on your mobile device. They utilise the network, GPS or wi-fi features of your mobile device, allowing it to communicate the location of your service.

While this can be very useful, there are a few precautions you should take to ensure your privacy and personal safety while using LBS.

Here are some LBS tips:

  • Restrict it to friends. Be cautious about sharing your location information. It might be fun to know where your friends and family are but ensure you restrict your settings to share information only with those you know and trust. Do you really want anyone and everyone to know what you are doing, where you are going and when your house will be empty?
  • Keep it vague. If you do decide to share your location with everyone, share more general information e.g. "I'm in Melbourne" or "I'm at home" rather than a specific address.
  • Only accept invitations from people you know and trust.
  • Stay in control. LBS features should allow you to stay in control of your own information. Make sure you understand the privacy and security settings and use them. Key features you should look for in an LBS:
  1. Opt-in. Every LBS should be opt-in. You are under no obligation to sign up for any service and you should only opt-in if you feel comfortable doing so.
  2. Opt-out/Stop/Temporary suspension. LBS should allow you to stop or temporarily suspend the service
  3. Regularly check who can find you. LBS should allow you to control each and every person's access to your location information and allow you to easily review and control all the people permitted to locate your mobile service.
  4. Location accuracy. LBS should allow you to control the accuracty of the information provided to others about your location. You can even manually enter your (or another) location if you desire.

If the service doesn't offer these privacy-protection features, ditch it! You can easily find another service that does.

  • Don't rely on LBS. LBS on your loved-one's phone can help you see that they've safetly reached they're destination, but don't rely on it. The service only works when the phone is on, in network or wi-fi coverage or otherwise enabled. Users can switch the service off or manually enter a location rather than let it be automatically tracked. 
  • Look after you mobile device. Don't leave it lying around where someone else could set up an LBS without your knowledge.

 

The ACMA also has tips on location based services.

 

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