To discover the kind of information that can be revealed about a person just by knowing their location, FIDIS researchers based in the UK, Germany and Belgium, led by Dr Mark Gasson of the University of Reading, were fitted with GPS enabled tracking devices, which have recorded their every move since March. Having observed the results, the team is concerned that the data does not simply reveal where you have been, but also exposes aspects of you and your private life that you may not realize. While data-share issues with mobile phones have been noted by privacy campaigners, FIDIS is concerned that consumers are still not aware of growing concerns over the trend of GPS-enabled mobile phones.
FIDIS report that the smaller pieces of information gathered via mobile GPS devices – like where you live, when you go to work, how often you socialize or who you go for coffee with – can be aggregated to create a fuller ‘behavioral profile’ of the user. By revealing whether you go to the gym, how often you exercise, where you eat and how often you go to bars and pubs, it’s possible to put together a picture of the lifestyle you lead, even calculating your risk of heart disease – information that, if passed on to third parties such as health insurance companies, could be used against you.
‘Location information isn’t considered sensitive data, and as such it’s possible for companies to use it as long as you give consent,’ notes Legal Researcher and study participant Eleni Kosta from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. ‘The trouble is that when you’re downloading the latest application to your phone that will tell you where the best restaurants or busiest clubs that you may like are based on the type of places you‘ve been before, you may not read the terms and conditions but simply tick the ‘OK’ box. This puts you at risk.’
Watch below an interview with Dr Mark Gasson who led this research.