Ina Fried

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Microsoft: Consumers Should Think Twice Before Broadcasting Location

As more and more services tap into location-based data, consumers need to take steps to make sure they are aware just how broadly they are sharing that information.

That was one of several points stressed by Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch, who sat down with Mobilized ahead of his appearance at a Churchill Club event Wednesday night focused on location-based services.

Among the company’s recommendations is that consumers think twice before taking actions such as broadcasting their location when they are alone or sharing geo-tagged photos of their home or children.

Microsoft did some research in December that found that three in five consumers are aware of location-based services and roughly half say they have used such a service, with one in 10 of those surveyed saying they use such services on a daily basis.

While the most common reported usages were for things like navigation, traffic and weather, about 18 percent of respondents said they were using a service like Foursquare, Facebook or Google Latitude that broadcasts their location.

The software maker is releasing the results later on Wednesday ahead of Friday’s commemoration of Data Privacy Day. This year, the company decided to focus its efforts on location-based services.

“This is a high-stakes, high-value data element,” Lynch said.

Lynch also noted that people sharing location with their social network might want to review just how wide that network is.

“I actually believe [sharing of] location data is a situation which probably should cause people to really go review that list,” he said.

And while there is a responsibility on consumers to be more aware, Lynch said, those building services and products also need to do their part.

“You can build it into the experience to actually make people aware that this is going to happen and they have a role to play in the choice,” he said.

Microsoft’s research found that privacy concerns are a barrier for some to adopting location-based services, particularly in the U.S. About half of overall survey respondents said they would be more comfortable with such services if they had more information on just who was seeing the information being shared.

The company also found that while 94 percent of consumers find location-based services to be valuable, they weren’t terribly willing to pay, and those who were often weren’t willing to pay more than $10 for such services. That seems to indicate more promise for advertising-funded services, especially since nearly half of those who have seen a location-based mobile ad have taken action on the ad–vastly higher than the response rates seen on traditional online ads.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus