The regulatory considerations and ethical dilemmas of location-based services (LBS) : A literature review
– The purpose of this paper is to comprehensively review existing literature regarding the ethical dilemmas posed by location-based services (LBS) and their impact upon the adoption of a regulatory framework.
– This paper employs a qualitative approach for reviewing LBS scholarship, in which existing knowledge is presented in narrative form and is critiqued thematically.
– In reviewing contemporary scholarship, the value of technical, social and environmental considerations is demonstrated. This encourages an understanding of the complexities, multiple interests and contextual factors that must be incorporated into the examination of LBS regulation in any social context.
– Approximately 85 per cent of handsets now have a global positioning system chipset on board. LBS affect a great number of mobile users. This research will create awareness among users of the potential benefits and harms that can come from the (mis)use of the technology. It will also promote an awareness of the complexities surrounding LBS regulation, drawing attention to the importance of collaboration and involvement of LBS stakeholders in the regulatory process.
– Defines the ethical dilemmas of LBS that influence regulatory choices through a review of applicable literature and proposes that future research simultaneously address technical, social and environmental factors relevant to LBS.
The essential aim of this paper is to define the ethical dilemmas of location-based services (LBS) that influence regulatory choices. LBS are commonly termed location services, location-aware services and/or location-related services due to their application in a variety of industries, and even as context-aware services (Küpper, 2005, pp. 1-2; Zhu et al., 2010, p. 410). As Bauer et al. (2005, p. 212) note, defining features of LBS include mobility, ubiquity and personalisation. Various definitions of LBS are available, given the multiple means associated with classifying LBS, and the myriad of application areas serving specific types of end-user groups (Australian Communications and Media Authority 2010; Küpper and Treu, 2010, p. 214; Spiekermann, 2004, p. 10; Jacobsen, 2004, p. 84; Lopez, 2004, p. 171; Shiode et al., 2004, p. 350; Astroth, 2003, p. 269; Giaglis et al., 2003, p. 68). The consolidated definition that has been adopted for this paper is: an application that combines the location or position of a mobile device associated with a given entity (individual or object) together with contextual information, to offer a value-added service and/or fulfil a particular need for the user across a wireless network. An important consideration with LBS with respect to the value-added component in particular is that LBS are not solely based on knowledge of an entity's location, but rather rely on the coupling of location information with further data of interest to the user according to Giaglis et al. (2003, p. 69).
In recent years, a discussion regarding the need for regulation has been evolving, the crux of which is addressing the gap between technological progression and the implementation of appropriate safeguards to govern the ethical dilemmas arising from LBS usage. This paper aims to review existing knowledge in the LBS domain in order to identify these dilemmas and propose suitable approaches for regulating LBS.
2. The qualitative approach to reviewing literature
The purpose of a literature review is to evaluate and describe gaps in existing research, thus situating and providing context for a given investigation. According to Aveyard (2010, pp. 9-19), a literature review should be conducted in a comprehensive and systematic manner, adopting a meticulous process for reviewing literature. Notably, the process involves defining the research topic, determining the methods to be employed for reviewing, analysing and examining relevant scholarship, and discussing research gaps.
Drawing on the wealth of existing studies in the LBS field, this paper employs a qualitative approach to reviewing literature, in which existing knowledge is presented in narrative form through the use of the thematic analysis technique. The qualitative approach to research is reliant on rich data laden with subjectivities and contextual details, as opposed to the quantitative approach that is characterised by the use of what is considered objective and generalisable data (Johnson and Onwuegbuzie, 2004, p. 14). Kaplan and Maxwell (2005, p. 30) believe that qualitative research enables an understanding of situations “by investigating the perspectives and behavior of the people in these situations and the context within which they act”.
This entails adopting a “naturalistic approach” (Denzin and Lincoln, 2000, p. 3) that is based on the fundamental premise that context, as opposed to quantification, will deliver an enhanced understanding of a particular phenomenon (Krauss, 2005, p. 759). The qualitative approach is suitable for this paper, as it enables an examination the ethical dilemmas of LBS and the need for an appropriate regulatory response through a review of secondary data sources and an analysis of knowledge gained from these sources in a thematic fashion. The thematic analysis method is a common analytic technique employed in qualitative research. According to Buetow (2010, p. 123), the technique is primarily based on the recognition of recurring and significant themes. Fereday and Muir-Cochrane (2006, pp. 80-91) concur that in qualitative data analysis there is the general need for researchers to identify patterns in data and to document the important themes that emerge.
This process can be aided through the act of coding, a technique that is typically utilised in qualitative analysis. According to Basit (2003, p. 144), “[c]odes or categories are tags or labels for allocating units of meaning to the descriptive or inferential information compiled during a study. Codes usually are attached to chunks of varying-sized words, phrases, sentences or whole paragraphs, connected or unconnected to a specific setting”. As noted by Saldaña (2013, p. 3), this can include observational and interview data and relevant to this paper, literature sources. Coding can be conducted electronically using content analysis software, or alternatively a process of manual coding can be applied. The establishment of codes, it should be noted, is heavily dependent on the “filter” employed by the researcher(s) in analysing and viewing the data at hand which in turn is influenced by several factors such as field of study and theoretical/conceptual frameworks adopted (Saldaña, 2013, pp. 6-7).
2.1 Qualitative content analysis
There was a two-thronged approach to the qualitative content analysis in this paper (Figure 1). In phase I a theory was chosen to frame the content gathering, providing for a deductive process. In phase II, key thematic areas were adopted and used to search for relevant literature, e.g. “location-based services” + “environment”. Sub-themes were mapped out using an inductive approach conducting a detailed conceptual analysis.
Phase I required a review of existing theories that might be used to frame the study of a complex technology, such as LBS. Theories from the 1950s onwards were considered for relevance and multidimensional suitability, including systems theory, diffusion of innovation, actor-network theory and even critical social theory. Socio-technical theory was instead chosen for its ability to allow for interdisciplinary evaluation, support for emerging technology, diversity of issues considered, and the ability to give equal attention to both technology and social issues. Actor-network theory was the only other theory or approach which was found to be suitable for the research but finally discounted due to its insistence to disregard the predefined structures in the LBS value chain, given the underlying belief that all actors are treated equally (York, 2010; Law and Hassard, 1999).
Socio-technical theory addressed the technical, social and environmental considerations pertaining to LBS, which consequently influence regulatory discussions and debates. An awareness of these complex dimensions calls for a balanced approach to regulation, in which multiple and often competing stakeholder interests are explored alongside the potential benefits and risks. Nissenbaum (2009) guides the selection of an appropriate theoretical basis for this investigation, through an examination of socio-technical systems. Socio-technical systems are the systems that “affect us not purely by dint of physical or material properties but by properties they acquire as systems and devices embedded in larger material and social networks and webs of meaning” (p. 6). As such, a valuable starting point, reinforced by the majority of studies reviewed acknowledge that LBS are indeed socio-technical systems embedded within a wider social context. It is for this reason that key thematic areas to be explored included three main aspects: technical, social and environmental considerations relevant to LBS. We can thus call this a directed content analysis, in which initial thematic analysis began with the adoption of a theoretical approach. With this kind of deductive approach (Hyde, 2000), “researchers immerse themselves in the data and allow themes to emerge from the data” (Zhang and Wildemuth, 2009).
In Phase II, the three main concept categories of “technical”, “social” and “environmental” were used to collect relevant data from academic scholarship. This phase was highly inductive, aiding in the identification of sub-themes. In this study the thematic analysis methodology involved the development of manual codes from the vast amounts of literature pertaining to LBS regulation in general and the socio-ethical dilemmas pertaining to LBS specifically, a technique that Basit (2003) claims to be valid. The sub-themes emerging from the coding process were then organised in the form of a narrative that describes the background to the LBS value chain, the factors influencing LBS regulation and the suitable approaches for regulating LBS. This is a high-level relational analysis which attempts to take the identified issues and cognitively present them in a coherent manner so that bigger picture meaning is revealed through inter-relationships of concepts. Thus the narrative is a presentation of the semantic connections across the academic literature searched, determined by the unit of analysis drawn from socio-technical theory. This conceptualisation is based on a two-tiered appreciation of the technical, social and environmental considerations relevant to LBS, themes and sub-themes derived from the review of literature relevant to LBS regulation in general and the theoretical foundations for studying LBS regulation in particular (Table I).
The resultant narrative is presented throughout the remainder of this paper: Section 3 will provide background literature into the nature of the LBS value chain, Section 4 will examine the ethical dilemmas associated with LBS that necessitate some form of regulatory response, Section 5 will present a discussion on the various means of regulating LBS, Section 6 will offer the findings of the paper which exhibit the major considerations that impact on establishing the need for LBS regulation and Section 7 will provide the concluding remarks.
3. Background: the LBS value chain/network
Satisfying user needs through the provision of LBS requires a complex set of interactions amongst a series of stakeholders. This is traditionally represented as a value chain, which refers to “a map of the entire set of competencies, investments and activities required to produce, deliver, maintain and reap the proceeds from a product or service” (Rülke et al., 2003, p. 122). The value chain representation is common in the literature and in industry (Paavilainen, 2001; Barnes, 2002; Rülke et al., 2003; ELBA Consortium, 2004; DCITA, 2006), with the term chain implying sequential and linear interactions and processes. However, Alanen and Autio (2003, p. 176) argue that a value net or network is preferable, given that mobile business services are in fact non-sequential. Importantly, this net is a mesh of three distinct value chains, specifically the service development, service provisioning and devices value chains (Alanen and Autio, 2003, p. 176). Li and Whalley (2002, pp. 464-466) concur, in an article focusing on the deconstruction of the telecommunications value chain and sub-markets such as the mobile market, that value network better encapsulates industry complexities.
The LBS value chain or net is unique in that a single stakeholder is unable to provide a complete offering to customers, resulting in a situation in which partnership is crucial (Rülke et al., 2003, p. 138). That is, LBS provisioning is an “interorganizational matter” (Küpper, 2005, p. 10), requiring the cooperation of multiple actors. The selection of such actors will differ depending on the type of LBS application, given that various models can be implemented. For instance, Paavilainen (2001, pp. 169-170) demonstrates the unique value chains for network-based vs handset-based LBS, noting that network-based solutions require additional components such as a mobile network, and software and application developers in determining the location of an entity, as opposed to handset-based solutions that can circumvent components such as the mobile network.
For the remainder of this paper, the term value chain will be employed to encompass both the “chain” and “net” concepts in referring to LBS stakeholders. This enables an appreciation of the complexity of interactions between the actors and the non-sequential nature of interactions. Furthermore, it allows for the LBS value chain to be represented in a variety of forms depending on the underlying technology and/or the LBS application being delivered.
It is beneficial to recognise that the delivery of LBS requires contribution and collaboration from a variety of operational and non-operational “actors” or stakeholders, each of whom may assume one or many roles in the LBS value chain (Küpper, 2005, p. 10). Operational stakeholders, according to Küpper (2005, p. 10), are considered to be the technical actors that are directly involved in the delivery of a particular service through the provision of the required infrastructure, while non-operational stakeholders generally refer to the non-technical actors that maintain an indirect involvement. Küpper (2005, p. 11) explains that operational stakeholders include the target, cellular and local operators, position originator, location provider, context provider, LBS provider and end user, while non-operational actors comprise developers and research, standardisation, vendors, trade and commerce, automobile industry, government and others. A significant point to note with respect to Küpper's list of actors is that the value chain is specific to LBS in the first instance, and second that the LBS user is deemed an operational stakeholder, as opposed to a peripheral component at the completion of the value chain, as in the models proposed by Rülke et al. (2003), Barnes (2002) and Paavilainen (2001).
In the interest of a comprehensive approach, a consolidated, diagrammatic representation of the LBS value chain is given in Figure 2, specifying and incorporating both non-operational and operational actors, whilst introducing LBS users as entities falling within both categories. The diagram notably demonstrates that all operational efforts are geared towards the delivery of LBS to end users who may be involved in the development process to varying degrees. However, the proposed value chain simultaneously acknowledges the real-world scenario in which users may not necessarily be operational. It should be noted that this figure symbolises a generic model specific to LBS, as opposed to m-commerce, and has been generated and informed by a number of sources (Paavilainen, 2001; Barnes, 2002; Astroth, 2003; Rülke et al., 2003; ELBA Consortium, 2004; Jacobsen, 2004; Lopez, 2004; Küpper, 2005; DCITA, 2006). Furthermore, the LBS value chain presents a complete listing of stakeholders that may participate in the provision of any given LBS application, rather than representing the stakeholders involved in the delivery of a particular type of LBS application, thereby ensuring the applicability of the model to multiple LBS applications. Additionally, the LBS value chain highlights the significance of participation and collaboration, illustrating the information flows/interaction between stakeholders, albeit simplistically through the use of arrows between operational and non-operational stakeholders.
However, in applying the value chain to a specific LBS context or solution, the nature of interactions certainly becomes more complex, and is not restricted to collaboration across the operational and non-operational division as the diagram implies, but rather amongst stakeholders within these categories. For example, the value chain for a given location-based social networking application would constitute a unique collection of stakeholders and as such the nature of interactions would differ from the value chain presented in Figure 1. This specific instance of the LBS value chain is illustrated in Figure 3, where it is evident that the line division between operational and non-operational entities certainly becomes blurred. Additionally, with the emergence of next generation or Web 2.0-based LBS applications, alternative value chains, also termed supply chains emerge (Küpper and Treu, 2010, p. 223), demonstrating the centrality of the user in the chain and the potential for the user to be an operational entity. This also illustrates the nature of interactions between actors or stakeholders in a more accurate fashion than the generic, but comprehensive, chain proposed in this paper. Küpper and Treu (2010, pp. 223-227) also present a number of scenarios in which the supply chain is applied to specific instances, such as child tracking.
It is apparent that in LBS regulatory discussions, the LBS industry must be considered with respect to the constituent stakeholders, which requires focus on largely technical or technology-related considerations. As such this paper argues that an accurate study of LBS regulation within a specific social context requires research into the manner in which stakeholders interact using the value chain as a starting point. Doing so enables an appreciation of the level of partnership required to deliver a solution, and alludes to the complexities and potentially divergent interests that must be accounted for in developing and implementing LBS applications, and addressing the need for regulation. It also suggests that the chosen approach or approaches to regulating LBS must be sympathetic to the divergent and perhaps competing interests of value chain stakeholders. Sensitivity to stakeholder interests fundamentally entails an understanding of the ethical challenges pertaining to LBS and the various stakeholder groups.
4. Ethical dilemmas of LBS
Studies addressing the ethical implications of emerging technologies, such as LBS, generally reflect on the risks resulting from the implementation of a particular technology within a given social context. While numerous approaches to ethics exist, all are inextricably linked to ideas of morality, and an ability to distinguish good conduct from bad. Ethics can be considered as the “study of morality” (Quinn, 2006, p. 55; Tavani, 2007, p. 32), where morality refers to a “system of rules for guiding human conduct and principles for evaluating those rules” (Tavani, 2007, p. 32). This definition is shared by Elliot and Phillips (2004, p. 465), who regard ethics as “a set of rules, or a decision procedure, or both, intended to provide the conditions under which the greatest number of human beings can succeed in ‘flourishing’, where ‘flourishing’ is defined as living a fully human life” (O′Connor and Godar, 2003, p. 248).
4.1 Subjectivity is inevitable in the study of ethics
Numerous authors stress that the focus of ethics research and debates should not be skewed towards the unethical uses of a particular technology, but rather an objective stance should be embraced. Such objectivity must nonetheless ensure that social interests are adequately represented. That is, with respect to location and tracking technologies, Clarke (2001b, p. 220) claims that social interests have been somewhat overshadowed by the economic interests of LBS organisations. This is a situation that requires further attention. While information technology professionals are not necessarily liable for how technology is deployed, they must nonetheless recognise its implications and be engaged in the process of introducing adequate safeguards (Clarke, 1988, pp. 510-511).
This is explicitly the case for LBS given that the industry and technology have developed quicker than equivalent social implications and ethics scholarship, an unfavourable situation given the potential for LBS to have profound impacts on individuals and society (Perusco et al., 2006, p. 91). For example, Fusco et al. (2010, p. 7) reveal that trust may suffer as a consequence of LBSN usage in several ways, as disclosure of location information and potential monitoring activities can result in application misuse in order to conceal things; excessive questioning and the deterioration in trust amongst social relations; and trust being placed in the application rather than the friend. In a keynote address centred on defining the emerging notion of überveillance, Clarke (2007, p. 34) also discusses the need to measure the costs and “disbenefits” arising from surveillance practices in general, where costs refer to financial measures, and disbenefits to all non-economic impacts. This involves weighing the negatives against the potential advantages, a response that is applicable to LBS and pertinent to seeking objectivity.
However, a major challenge with respect to an impartial approach for LBS is the interplay between the constructive and the potentially damaging consequences that the technology facilitates. For instance, and with specific reference to wireless technologies in a business setting, Elliot and Phillips (2004, p. 474) maintain that such systems facilitate monitoring and surveillance which can be applied in conflicting scenarios. Positive applications, according to Elliot and Phillips, include monitoring to improve effectiveness or provide employee protection in various instances, although this view has been frequently contested. Alternatively, negative uses involve excessive monitoring, which may compromise privacy or lead to situations in which an individual is subjected to surveillance or unauthorised forms of monitoring.
Additional studies demonstrate the complexities arising from the divergent uses of a single LBS solution. It has been illustrated that any given application, for instance, parent, healthcare, employee and criminal tracking applications, can be simultaneously perceived as ethical and unethical (Michael et al. 2006, p. 7). A closer look at the scenario involving parents tracking children, as explained by Michael et al. (2006, p. 7), highlights that child tracking can enable the safety of a child on the one hand, while invading their privacy on the other. Therefore, the opposing uses of a single LBS solution become problematic and situation dependent, and indeed increasingly difficult to objectively examine. Dobson and Fisher (2003, p. 50) maintain that technology cannot be perceived as either good or evil in that it is not directly the cause of unethical behaviour, rather they serve to “empower those who choose to engage in good or bad behaviour”.
An alternative obstacle is associated with the extent to which LBS threaten the integrity of the individual. Explicitly, the risks associated with location and tracking technologies “arise from individual technologies and the trails that they generate, from compounds of multiple technologies, and from amalgamated and cross-referenced trails captured using multiple technologies and arising in multiple contexts” (Clarke, 2001b, p. 218). The consequent social implications or “dangers” are thus a product of individuals being convicted of having committed a particular action (Clarke, 2001b, p. 219). A wrongly accused individual may perceive the “disbenefits” arising from LBS as outweighing the benefits.
A common challenge confronting researchers with respect to the study of morals, ethics and technology is that the field of ethics is subjective. That is, what constitutes right and wrong behaviour varies depending on the beliefs of a particular individual, which are understood to be based on cultural and other factors specific to the individual in question. One such factor is an individual's experience with the technology, as can be seen in the previous example centred on the notion of an unjust accusation.
4.2 Ethical challenges in the LBS domain
Irrespective of the challenges associated with the study of ethics and technology, it is essential to evaluate the major ethical dilemmas in the LBS domain. This must be achieved prior to examining the related regulatory issues which are central to this study and paper. An essential observation in relation to ethics and regulation/law is that “[w]hat is moral and what is legal are not identical” (Quinn, 2006, p. 91). That is, particular actions or activities may be morally flawed and legally acceptable in the same instance. According to the literature, two prominent ethical dilemmas emerge with respect to LBS, which are the risk of privacy breaches, and the possibility of increased monitoring leading to unwarranted surveillance by institutions and individuals. The social implications of LBS can therefore be explored based on these two factors. Alternatively, the examination may be focused on themes/dilemmas, which provides a richer analysis of the implications. Various authors review social and ethical challenges from differing perspectives.
Michael et al. (2006, pp. 1-10) propose a framework for considering the ethical challenges emerging from the use of GPS tracking and monitoring solutions in the control, convenience and care usability contexts. The authors examine these contexts in view of the four ethical dilemmas of privacy, accuracy, property and accessibility (Michael et al., 2006, pp. 4-5). Alternatively, Elliot and Phillips (2004, p. 463) discuss the social and ethical issues associated with m-commerce and wireless computing in view of the privacy and access, security and reliability challenges. The authors claim that factors such as trust and control are of great importance in the organisational context (Elliot and Phillips, 2004, p. 470). Similar studies propose that the major themes regarding the social implications of LBS be summarised as control, trust, privacy and security (Perusco et al., 2006; Perusco and Michael, 2007). Despite the themes being inextricably linked and heavily intersecting, they enable an appreciation of the intricacies associated with the ethical and social implications of LBS.
A common thread in discussions and scholarship relating to the social and ethical implications of LBS is indeed the interrelatedness of themes; notably, the manner in which a particular consideration is often at odds with other concerns. The trade-off between privacy/freedom and safety/security is a particularly prevalent exchange that must be considered in the use of many ICTs (Dobson and Fisher, 2003, p. 47). In the case of LBS, it has been observed that the need for safety and security conflicts with privacy concerns, potentially resulting in contradictory outcomes depending on the nature of implementation. For example, while LBS facilitate security and timely assistance in emergency situations, they simultaneously have the potential to threaten privacy based on the ability for LBS to be employed in tracking and profiling situations (Casal, 2004, p. 105). According to Casal (2004, p. 109), the conflict between privacy and security, and lack of adequate regulatory frameworks, has a flow-on effect in that trust in ICTs is diminished. Trust is also affected in the family context, where tracking or monitoring activities result in lack of privacy between family members (Mayer, 2003, p. 436). The underlying question, according to Mayer (2003, p. 435) is in relation to the power struggle between those seeking privacy vs those seeking information: “What will be the impact within families as new technologies shift the balance of power between those looking for privacy and those seeking surveillance and information?” Mayer's (2003) question alludes to the relevance of the theme of control, in that surveillance can be perceived as a form of control and influence. Therefore, it can be observed that inextricable linkages exist between the four themes of control, trust, privacy and security. In summary, privacy protection requires security to be maintained, which in turn results in enhanced levels of control, leading to decreased levels of trust, which is a supplement to privacy (Perusco and Michael, 2007, pp. 13-14).
In reviewing literature regarding ethics and LBS, it is evident that the idea of balance surfaces, as does the requirement to weigh multiple and competing themes and interests. The prominent themes and ethical dilemmas are summarised in Figure 4. These dilemmas and themes collectively relate and refer to the social implications of LBS, thereby justifying the need for a review of regulatory approaches and models. That is, an assessment of these themes through the study of applicable scholarship indicates that multiple approaches are essential for regulating the various aspects of LBS.
5. Discussion: Regulating LBS
5.1 Approaches to ICT regulation
Regulation and legal systems, in general, are considered to fulfil the three functions of social and behavioural control, dispute resolution and “social engineering” (Cho, 1998, p. 13). With respect to this paper, studies indicate that technology regulation can be implemented through various models, namely, legal, industry-based and/or technological approaches. One source suggests that the distinct approaches to ICT regulation are legislation, regulation and self-regulation, each of which presents its own advantages and disadvantages (ICT Regulation Toolkit, 2012a). The legislative approach to implementing ICT regulation is characterised by the introduction of new legislation/frameworks or the amendment of existing legislation/frameworks in response to present and/or expected regulatory challenges (ICT Regulation Toolkit, 2012b). The regulatory approach encompasses the introduction of new regulations or the amendment of existing regulations to account for new technologies. It is commonly utilised in combination with the legislative approach where the latter focuses on higher level legislation and the former on “specific effects” (ICT Regulation Toolkit, 2012c). These approaches are government focused and are legal in nature. In contrast, the self-regulation approach is characterised by the formation of a consultative unit typically representing industry, government and/or other entities. The purpose of the unit is to provide advice in relation to legislative and regulatory processes, generally instituting industry guidelines/codes where applicable (ICT Regulation Toolkit, 2012d).
Concurrent with the defined legal and self-regulation approaches, various researchers claim that the use of technological models could also prove advantageous. Technological approaches to implementing regulation “may offer means of protection to pursue the aims of government legislation” (Cleff, 2010, p. 162). They may additionally address gaps in existing legal safeguards, marking the move from written law to computer-coded law (Hildebrandt and Koops, 2010, p. 443). The focus is on the interplay between law and technology, given the assertion that “policy making cannot function focused on legal code alone. Policy making instead requires a consideration between this legal code and the architecture or technology within which this code functions” (Lessig, 2003, p. 4). The relevance of code, or “architecture”, as a means of regulation in the context of cyberspace is examined in the influential work of Lawrence Lessig (1999) titled Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. Refer to Leenes and Koops (2005) for further analysis. The popular techniques appropriate to this study that involve embedding safeguards and regulatory measures into technology are generally centred on privacy; that is, following the principle of privacy by design (Cavoukian, 2009; De Hert et al., 2009; Pagallo, 2011) and the deployment of privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) (Clarke, 2001a; Kosta et al., 2008; De Hert et al., 2009).
Technological approaches are not, however, dependable mechanisms in their own right. In the first instance, a primary restriction of solutions such as PETs is lack of application by users (Cleff, 2010, p. 163) rendering them ineffective methods of protection and regulation. Second, they cannot be perceived nor promoted as substitutes for conventional forms of legislation. They should rather be employed as supplements to the aforementioned regulatory approaches, as existing research has suggested the need for a concerted approach to regulation.
5.2 Need for complementary regulatory models
For instance, in the m-commerce domain, several scholars propose that regulating its various aspects demands a synchronised approach in which regulation is implemented through complementary models. A coordinated approach is crucial, given that a single model cannot adequately cover the social and ethical concerns defined earlier in this paper. Numerous authors reinforce such claims. Grunwald et al. (2010, p. 2) claim that technological approaches alone are insufficient, citing the need for “education, good corporate citizenship and regulation”. Similarly, Cleff (2010) argues that traditional forms of regulation are no longer satisfactory for protecting consumers. With respect to mobile advertising in particular, Cleff suggests that additional options should be contemplated to overcome limitations in existing legal frameworks (p. 158), particularly given that “mobile computing crosses traditional geographical borders in new and different ways” (p. 161).
Likewise, in the context of mobile-based behavioural advertising, King and Jessen (2010, pp. 595-596) maintain that ensuring privacy, consumer and data protection requires a range of approaches that are government and non-government centred, notably, self-regulation, PETs and the restructure/modification of current legislation. Raab and De Hert (2007) provide a solid account of the varying taxonomies and approaches for regulating technologies (refer specifically to pp. 3-5 for an overview of literature and the entire article more generally for an overview of tools and actors). Cleff (2010, p. 167) agrees that a combined approach integrating industry-based, technological and legal regulatory models is pertinent.
Consistently, and with reference to LBS, Xu and Teo (2004) provide a framework for addressing whether certain control assurance approaches will ensure consumer's privacy in utilising an LBS application, and will thus be reflected in their intention to use the given solutions. The assurance approaches presented are: technological, in which the user serves as a control agent influencing the factors around which personal information is disseminated; and institution based in the form of industry self-regulation or government legislation whereby control is exercised by powerful bodies or forces (Xu and Teo, 2004, pp. 796-797). These assurance approaches are thus aligned with the three approaches to regulation. The respective approaches differ in terms of target audience and outcomes, which are summarised concisely in Table II based on the surveyed scholarship.
There is unanimous agreement regarding the importance of stakeholder engagement to each approach and the need for a coordinated and collaborative effort. Furthermore, the selection of a specific regulatory approach or approaches is influenced by public policy debates and the policy setting within a given context. This importantly calls for a review of the environmental considerations unique to that context as these considerations will greatly influence regulatory debates and decisions. As such, establishing the need for LBS regulation demands that a context-based investigation be conducted, one that focuses on the major considerations in LBS regulatory discussion.
6. Findings: major considerations in LBS regulatory discussions
This paper has demonstrated that investigating the need for LBS regulation requires an inclusive approach, in which the ethical dilemmas pertaining to LBS must be identified and the multiple approaches to regulation be explored. The thematic review of literature has furthermore revealed that regulatory discussions should in fact focus on three broad considerations:
Technical considerations primarily include understanding the stakeholders involved in the development and delivery of LBS applications. Social considerations address the ethical dilemmas and social implications associated with the use of emerging technologies in general, and LBS in particular, thus justifying the need for a review of regulatory challenges and mechanisms. Environmental considerations encompass the various regulatory approaches and the context-specific factors, such as cultural, political and economic conditions, which inevitably impact on regulatory choices.
In reflecting on the background to LBS, this paper defined the centrality of the value chain or network in delivering an appropriate solution in order to satisfy user needs. The value chain model demonstrates the importance of cooperation and interaction between stakeholders and suggests the complexities characterising the information flows that define such interaction. It also alludes to the potentially conflicting interests between operational and non-operational stakeholders, each of whom possess a distinctive role in the chain and therefore may not share consistent views regarding the need for regulation and the extent to which the identified ethical dilemmas apply. From the analysis of these technology-related considerations, it is apparent that the nature of stakeholder interactions, including the views of individual stakeholders regarding LBS regulation, is under-researched.
This is similarly the case with respect to stakeholder perspectives on the social considerations pertaining to LBS. Specifically, a practical and explicit examination and presentation of the dilemmas identified throughout this paper has not been attempted and therefore a gap exists concerning individual stakeholder viewpoints. With respect to environmental, including regulatory, considerations, it is clear that the regulatory challenges pertaining to LBS have not been clearly defined and resolved. That is, limited research is available regarding the most appropriate regulatory option for LBS. Importantly, the extent to which current legal, industry-based and technological solutions are applicable to LBS, particularly from the perspective of stakeholders, have not been adequately examined in previous studies.
In summary, it is recommended that future research into LBS regulation consider the technical, social and environmental considerations affecting the LBS industry in a simultaneous fashion and from the perspective of the varied stakeholders in the value chain. Doing so will enable an understanding of the complexities, multiple interests and contextual factors that must be factored into any study addressing the need for LBS regulation, ensuring sensitivity to the applicable ethical dilemmas. Significantly, this would entail a context-specific examination, given the variance between given social settings and jurisdictions.
This paper has offered a qualitative examination of LBS regulation scholarship through a thematic review of the LBS value chain, the ethical dilemmas of LBS and the associated regulatory implications. The LBS value chain presented throughout this paper highlighted the potentially varying interests and viewpoints that must be accounted for in the delivery of an LBS solution. Appreciation of divergent stakeholder interests entails a certain degree of sensitivity when examining the ethical dilemmas associated with LBS. As this paper has indicated, this also involves the recognition that a range of regulatory approaches may be necessary when regulating LBS, in order to incorporate differing stakeholder perspectives. Additionally, this paper has emphasised the value of stakeholder involvement in the LBS regulatory process and the importance of simultaneously assessing technical, social and environmental considerations in future regulatory discussions and related research.
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Keywords: Ethics, Location-based services, Literature review, Legal aspects of IT, Regulation/deregulation, LBS
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Acknowledgments: The authors wish to acknowledge the funding support of the Australian Research Council (ARC) – Discovery Grant DP0881191 titled “Toward the Regulation of the Location-Based Services Industry: Influencing Australian Government Telecommunications Policy”. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the ARC.
Citation: Roba Abbas, Katina Michael, MG Michael, (2014) "The regulatory considerations and ethical dilemmas of location-based services (LBS): A literature review", Information Technology & People, Vol. 27 Issue: 1, pp.2-20, https://doi-org.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/10.1108/ITP-12-2012-0156