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The Good and Bad of Location Sharing
By: Jessica Cherok
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Certainly location tracking without users' knowledge and consent is not okay. No one, regardless of their opinions yay or nay for location-related services, would likely say unauthorized tracking was okay. So, assuming everyone knows their information is being tracked in a particular scenario, what makes location-related services so controversial?

There is quite a divide between how people feel about location-related services. On the one hand you have people who feel tracking location is unnecessary, maybe even intrusive. On the other side are people who love — or at very least see no problem with — sharing where they are minute-by-minute.

The Good: Sharing information makes for a better user experience. The location information helps applications create more fun and interactive products, and thus a more engaged user. The more engaged a user is, the more likely it is that they will continue using the application and encourage their friends to join.

As more people join, more information is collected, and the product continues to improve. It’s the digital circle of life, so to speak. Furthermore, as information is collected, the processes around sharing and protecting data continues to improve, along with increased awareness on the part of the user.

The Bad: Sharing information sometimes comes with secondary consequences. Posting a photo or tagging yourself at the golf course rather than at your desk during office hours can certain sour your boss’s opinion of you. High school and college-age kids don’t think about the long-term impact of their check-ins, or how becoming the mayor of the local pub may look in the eyes of their future employer.

Or how the younger still — tweens and young teens — could potentially put themselves in precarious situations. Pretty standard parenting advice has long been not to share your personal information with strangers online. Isn’t sharing your specific geolocation sharing that information with lots and lots of online strangers?

Whether or not you are the type of person to share everything or nothing, or maybe just a little here and there, the best thing you can do is arm yourself with common sense. After all, sharing location information maybe isn’t for everyone.

Conversely, perhaps if you took some extra steps to learn what information is collected, and what is done with it, you may feel better about sharing. At the very least you will be better versed in what is happening with your personal details, and that should ultimately drive your decision.

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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