How Location Based Services Are Mis-used?


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The Global Positions System (GPS) satellites are free for anyone to use. However, to use it, a GPS receiver is required which is not free. In recent years these GPS receivers have become very small and embedded in mobile phones. This has given rise to many location based services. Though there are many LBS applications that are very useful, there are a few applications that are misused.

One of the location-based services as mentioned at is Child Tracking. In a study carried out by New Media Technologies students (2005) in Australia, they have detailed how this service can be misused. They state that,

“In 1998 the US implemented the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act 1998 which limits the ways Web site operators and others may collect and disseminate information pertaining to customers under the age of 13. So far, Australia has not followed suit and does not seem to have a law, which directly protects children from technology such as the Internet. With the introduction of global positioning systems for tracking purposes, the issue of child protection needs to be addressed before this technology gets into the wrong hands and used for malicious purposes. ”

Some of the other consequences that may occur due to these services are the problem of parent-child relationship and also marital relationship. In their study they point out “parents should negotiate with their teenagers an agreeable form of knowing where they are whether it be GPS on their phone or just a phone call to let them know where they are. This will ensure that the relationship will not be damaged through a form of mistrust. ”

And even between spouses each needs a bit of their own space and privacy, which will be jeopardised by the use of this service and may cause problems in marital relationships.

In a ZDNet news by Lisa Bowman (1999) speaks of some scary scenarios where this technology can be misused such as, “Insurance companies could refuse to insure you, or charge you higher rates, unless you install a tracking system on your car. They could then tell if you drive over 55 or spend time in shady neighbourhoods where your car has a greater chance of being stolen. ” Or “FBI and local police officials could have access to your whereabouts by simply logging onto a database attached to a cell phone, tollbooth or GPS tracker”.

In yet another case a rental car company was sued by the customer for tracking him down using GPS. “In a case that could help set the bar for the amount of privacy drivers of rental cars can expect, a Connecticut man is suing a local rental company, Acme Rent-a-Car, after it used GPS (Global Positioning System) technology to track him and then fined him $450 for speeding three times. ” (Robert Lemos, 2001).

A Wireless week (2003) article lists how even location based games can be misused. “In Sweden, thousands of wireless game subscribers stalk each other using cell phones and location technology. In Japan, you can use a GPS-enabled cell phone to arrange a date, an application sometimes used by teenage prostitutes. In many countries around the world, a GPS-based game called “geocaching" is growing in popularity. ” Ever since Princess Diana’s death the perils of stalking has come to the forefront in the media. The availability of such services will only help the stalkers.

As if these are not enough there are other privacy issues related to location based services. If you need further reference visit the website

William Alexander is a wireless solutions consultant based in Singapore. He has more than ten years of experience in architecting solutions based on many Wireless Technologies including GPS, 3G, GPRS, WAP, SMS, Bluetooth and GSM.


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