THE INDUSTRY needs to pull together protect consumer location data privacy, the head of strategic liaison from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) Jonathan Bamford said at a conference today.
The conference, called 'A fine balance 2011: location and cyber privacy in the digital age' concentrated on privacy at a time when smartphones, credit cards and other devices are tracking user locations.
Bamford said, "We need to inspire public trust into the way information is issued. What do we do as a regulatory option?"
He said that the ICO's research has shown that the public is concerned about their privacy. He added, "There is no doubt that human activities have a geographic component and some may be more sensitive than others. Your phone is with you all the time so anything that relates to a smartphone can be very powerful in terms of how I live my life."
Bamford said that application developers and those who make operating systems such as Google have an obligation to control how location data is used.
He said, "People who develop applications have a series of obligations as do those who create the operating systems. Everybody has a role to play."
He added, "If location data is obtained how long do you retain it for? You can build up a picture of how I live my life if you retain it too long."
There are already laws in place to govern privacy, Bamford pointed out, but they can "creak" at times.
He said, "It's not a barren landscape at the moment, we have laws to govern this - we have privacy directive and EU law. In the UK we have the Data Protection Act. Maybe it creaks a bit which is why we have to revise the EU data protection directive."
Bamford admitted that the ICO also has "certain responsibilities" and in recent times has developed its audit inspection for companies.
"It's important that the public understand what's happening to the information that's collected about them, we want a public that's confident in using location based services, public trust and confidence. I think if people work together we can get privacy off the life support machine and get the world we want in relation to location based services." µ