Code of Conduct Signed to Protect Consumer Privacy

Consumer PrivacyLocation analytics firms such as Euclid and Radius Networks have reached an agreement with the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) for an official code of conduct. The FPF code of conduct was developed with Senator Charles Schumer, and signed at the end of October. It ensures that people receive notification when location tracking takes place, and that they are given the information they need to opt out.

Senator Schumer’s interest in the issue dates back to the November 11 reports of location tracking in several U.S. shopping malls. Originally Senator Schumer wanted companies to track only those consumers who opted in, but he later changed his stance. Now he requests that retailers give shoppers a ‘clear and obvious opportunity to opt out before tracking them.’

According to Research Live, “Under the FPF code, companies that collect data through this technology must limit how the information is used and shared and how long it may be retained. The code mandates that companies de-identify the data and explain in their privacy policy how they do so. Companies are required to get opt-in consent when personal information is collected, or when a consumer will be contacted. The code calls for opt-out consent where the information collected is not personal. In addition, this data cannot be collected or used in an adverse manner for employment, healthcare or insurance purposes.”

David Williams of E9111-LBS Consulting is an expert on issues associated with wireless location, including privacy and security. He explains, “There is a desperate need for new regulations regarding the collection and use of location information. Historically this data was used only for location-specific applications, but that is no longer true. Companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook are certainly collecting your location info as a general policy, then using it to sell location-based advertising. But in addition, formerly strong privacy advocates – particularly wireless carriers – are relaxing their access to your location information – and they are actively selling it!”

What should consumers be aware of in regard to the future of wireless location and their privacy? “This problem will only become worse as more and more applications (and advertisers) seek to use location information to more precisely target their services, and new trackable tech, such as wearable technologies, become more prevalent,” says Williams. “Left unchecked, the potential for the abuse of private location information is extremely high. At E911-LBS Consulting we help companies develop balanced location privacy policies and location infrastructure that maximize the benefit of location information to your business, while being careful to protect the consumer from its potential abuse.”

Andrew S. Baker is president of BrainWave Consulting Company, LLC, which provides virtual CIO services, including information security and IT operations, for small and mid-sized businesses. He believes the FBF code is one important step in privacy protection. “The FPF code is a good start on improving the data privacy of US customers. I would have preferred if the stance that consumers had to opt-in first had been maintained, but as with all things political, it is important to structure these policies so that they will have enough support to be put into place.”

Baker does have some questions about how FPF will be implemented. “What are the limits to data retention and data sharing? While the agreement speaks about limits existing, it does not appear to elaborate upon them. What will the enforcement and oversight be to ensure that this code is not violated? For now, there is hope. I just need to see how it plays out in real life/business.”

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