Location-Based Privacy, Protection, Safety, and Security


This chapter will discuss the interrelated concepts of privacy and security with reference to location-based services, with a specific focus on the notion of location privacy protection. The latter can be defined as the extent and level of control an individual possesses over the gathering, use, and dissemination of personal information relevant to their location, whilst managing multiple interests. Location privacy in the context of wireless technologies is a significant and complex concept given the dual and opposing uses of a single LBS solution. That is, an application designed or intended for constructive uses can simultaneously be employed in contexts that violate the (location) privacy of an individual. For example, a child or employee monitoring LBS solution may offer safety and productivity gains (respectively) in one scenario, but when employed in secondary contexts may be regarded as a privacy-invasive solution. Regardless of the situation, it is valuable to initially define and examine the significance of “privacy” and “privacy protection,” prior to exploring the complexities involved.

16.1 Introduction

Privacy is often expressed as the most complex issue facing location-based services (LBS) adoption and usage [44, p. 82, 61, p. 5, 66, pp. 250–254, 69, pp. 414–415]. This is due to numerous factors such as the significance of the term in relation to human rights [65, p. 9]. According to a report by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), “privacy protection generally should take precedence over a range of other countervailing interests, such as cost and convenience” [3, p. 104]. The intricate nature of privacy is also a result of the challenges associated with accurately defining the term [13, p. 4, 74, p. 68]. That is, privacy is a difficult concept to articulate [65, p. 13], as the term is liberally and subjectively applied, and the boundaries constituting privacy protection are unclear. Additionally, privacy literature is dense, and contains varying interpretations, theories and discrepancies as to what constitutes privacy. However, as maintained by [65, p. 67], “[o]ne point on which there seems to be near-unanimous agreement is that privacy is a messy and complex subject.” Nonetheless, as asserted by [89, p. 196], privacy is fundamental to the individual due to various factors:

The intensity and complexity of life, attendant upon advancing civilization, have rendered necessary some retreat from the world, and man, under the refining influence of culture, has become more sensitive to publicity, so that solitude and privacy have become more essential to the individual.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of security is the “state of being free from danger or threat.” A designation of security applicable to this research is “a condition in which harm does not arise, despite the occurrence of threatening events; and as a set of safeguards designed to achieve that condition” [92, pp. 390–391]. Security and privacy are often confused in LBS scholarship. Elliot and Phillips [40, p. 463] warn that “[p]rivacy is not the same as security,” although the two themes are related [70, p. 14]. Similarly, Clarke [21] states that the term privacy is often used by information and communication technology professionals to describe data and data transmission security. The importance of security is substantiated by the fact that it is considered “a precondition for privacy and anonymity” [93, p. 2], and as such the two themes are intimately connected. In developing this chapter and surveying security literature relevant to LBS, it became apparent that existing scholarship is varied, but nonetheless entails exploration of three key areas. These include: (1) security of data or information, (2) personal safety and physical security, and (3) security of a nation or homeland/national security, interrelated categories adapted from [70, p. 12].

This chapter will discuss the interrelated concepts of privacy and security with reference to LBS, with a specific focus on the notion of location privacy protection. The latter can be defined as the extent and level of control an individual possesses over the gathering, use, and dissemination of personal information relevant to their location [38, p. 1, 39, p. 2, 53, p. 233], whilst managing multiple interests (as described in Sect. 16.1.1). Location privacy in the context of wireless technologies and LBS is a significant and complex concept given the dual and opposing uses of a single LBS solution. That is, an application designed or intended for constructive uses can simultaneously be employed in contexts that violate the (location) privacy of an individual. For example, a child or employee monitoring LBS solution may offer safety and productivity gains (respectively) in one scenario, but when employed in secondary contexts may be regarded as a privacy-invasive solution. Regardless of the situation, it is valuable to initially define and examine the significance of “privacy” and “privacy protection,” prior to exploring the complexities involved.

16.1.1 Privacy: A Right or an Interest?

According to Clarke [26, pp. 123–129], the notions of privacy and privacy protection emerged as important social issues since the 1960s. An enduring definition of privacy is the “right to be let alone” [89, p. 193]. This definition requires further consideration as it is quite simplistic in nature and does not encompass diverse dimensions of privacy. For further reading on the development of privacy and the varying concepts including that of Warren and Brandeis, see [76]. Numerous scholars have attempted to provide a more workable definition of privacy than that offered by Warren and Brandeis.

For instance, [21] maintains that perceiving privacy simply as a right is problematic and narrow, and that privacy should rather be viewed as an interest or collection of interests, which encompasses a number of facets or categories. As such, privacy is defined as “the interest that individuals have in sustaining a ‘personal space’, free from interference by other people and organisations” [2126]. In viewing privacy as an interest, the challenge is in balancing multiple interests in the name of privacy protection. This, as Clarke [21] maintains, includes opposing interests in the form of one’s own interests, the interests of other people, and/or the interests of other people, organizations, or society. As such Clarke refers to privacy protection as “a process of finding appropriate balances between privacy and multiple competing interests.”

16.1.2 Alternative Perspectives on Privacy

Solove’s [80] taxonomy of privacy offers a unique, legal perspective on privacy by grouping privacy challenges under the categories of information collection, information processing, information dissemination, and invasion. Refer to [80, pp. 483–558] for an in depth overview of the taxonomy which includes subcategories of the privacy challenges. Nissenbaum [65, pp. 1–2], on the other hand, maintains that existing scholarship generally expresses privacy in view of restricting access to, and maintaining control over, personal information. For example, Quinn [73, p. 213] insists that the central theme in privacy debates is that of access, including physical access to an individual, in addition to information access. With respect to LBS and location privacy, Küpper and Treu [53, pp. 233–234] agree with the latter, distinguishing three categories of access: (1) third-party access by intruders and law enforcement personnel/authorities, (2) unauthorized access by providers within the supply chain for malicious purposes, and (3) access by other LBS users. Nissenbaum [65, pp. 1–2] disputes the interpretation focused on access and control, noting that individuals are not interested in “simply restricting the flow of information but ensuring that it flows appropriately.” As such, Nissenbaum offers the framework of contextual integrity, as a means of determining when certain systems and practices violate privacy, and transform existing information flows inappropriately [65, p. 150]. The framework serves as a possible tool that can assist in justifying the need for LBS regulation.

A primary contribution from Nissenbaum is her emphasis on the importance of context in determining the privacy-violating nature of a specific technology-based system or practice. In addition to an appreciation of context, Nissenbaum recognizes the value of perceiving technology with respect to social, economic, and political factors and interdependencies. That is, devices and systems should be considered as socio-technical units [65, pp. 5–6].

In relation to privacy, and given the importance of socio-technical systems, the complexities embedded within privacy may, therefore, arise from the fact that the term can be examined from a number of perspectives. For instance, it can be understood in terms of its philosophical, psychological, sociological, economical, and political significance [2126]. Alternatively, privacy theory can provide varying means of interpretation, given that available approaches draw on inspiration from multiple disciplines such as computer science and engineering, amongst others [65, p. 67]. It is also common to explore privacy through its complex dimensions.

According to Privacy International, for instance, the term comprises the aspects of information privacy, bodily privacy, privacy of communications, and territorial privacy [72]. Similarly, in providing a contemporary definition of privacy, Clarke [26] uses Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to define the various categories of privacy; that is, “privacy of the person,” “privacy of personal behavior,” “privacy of personal communications,” and “privacy of personal data.” Clarke argues that since the late 1960s the term has been confined, in a legal sense, to the last two categories. That is, privacy laws have been restricted in their focus in that they are predominantly based on the OECD fair information principles, and lack coverage of other significant categories of privacy. Therefore, the label of information privacy, typically interchangeable with data privacy, is utilized in reference to the combination of communications and data privacy [21], and is cited by [58, pp. 5–7] as a significant challenge in the information age.

16.2 Background

16.2.1 Defining Information Privacy

In Alan Westin’s prominent book Privacy and Freedom, information privacy is defined as “the right of individuals, groups and institutions to determine for themselves, when, how and to what extent information about them is communicated to others” [90, p. 7]. Information in this instance is personal information that can be linked to or identify a particular individual [33, p. 326]. For a summary of information privacy literature and theoretical frameworks, presented in tabular form, refer to [8, pp. 15–17].

16.2.2 Information Privacy Through the Privacy Calculus Perspective

For the purpose of this chapter, it is noteworthy that information privacy can be studied through differing lenses, one of which is the privacy calculus theoretical perspective. Xu et al. [95, p. 138] explain that “the calculus perspective of information privacy interprets the individual’s privacy interests as an exchange where individuals disclose their personal information in return for certain benefits.” It can be regarded a form of “cost–benefit analysis” conducted by the individual, where privacy is likely to be (somewhat) relinquished if there is a perceived net benefit resulting from information disclosure [33, p. 327]. This perspective acknowledges the claim that privacy-related issues and concerns are not constant, but rather depend on perceptions, motivations, and conditions that are context or situation dependent [78, p. 353]. A related notion is the personalizationprivacy paradox, which is based on the interplay between an individual’s willingness to reap the benefits of personalized services at the expense of divulging personal information, which may potentially threaten or invade their privacy. An article by Awad and Krishnan [8] examines this paradox, with specific reference to online customer profiling to deliver personalized services. The authors recommend that organizations work on increasing the perceived benefit and value of personalized services to ensure “the potential benefit of the service outweighs the potential risk of a privacy invasion” [8, p. 26].

In the LBS context, more specifically, Xu et al. [94] build on the privacy calculus framework to investigate the personalization–privacy paradox as it pertains to overt and covert personalization in location-aware marketing. The results of the study suggest that the personalization approaches (overt and covert) impact on the perceived privacy risks and values. A complete overview of results can be found in [94, pp. 49–50]. For further information regarding the privacy calculus and the personalization–privacy paradox in the context of ubiquitous commerce applications including LBS, refer to [78]. These privacy-related frameworks and the concepts presented in this section are intended to be introductory in nature, enabling an appreciation of the varied perspectives on privacy and information privacy, in addition to the importance of context, rather than providing thoroughness in the treatment of privacy and information privacy. Such notions are particularly pertinent when reflecting on privacy and the role of emerging information and communication technologies (ICTs) in greater detail.

16.2.3 Emerging Technologies, m-Commerce and the Related Privacy Challenges

It has been suggested that privacy concerns have been amplified (but not driven) by the emergence and increased use of ICTs, with the driving force being the manner in which these technologies are implemented by organizations [2126]. In the m-commerce domain, mobile technologies are believed to boost the threat to consumer privacy. That is, the intensity of marketing activities can potentially be increased with the availability of timely location details and, more significantly, tracking information; thus enabling the influencing of consumer behaviors to a greater extent [25]. The threat, however, is not solely derived from usage by organizations. Specifically, the technologies originally introduced for use by government and organizational entities are presently available for consumer adoption by members of the community. For further elaboration, refer to Abbas et al. [1] and chapter 8 of Andrejevic [4]. Thus, location (information) privacy protection emerges as a substantial challenge for the government, business, and consumer sectors.

16.2.4 Defining Location (Information) Privacy

Location privacy, regarded a subset of information privacy, has been defined and presented in various ways. Duckham [38, p. 1] believes that location privacy is “the right of individuals to control the collection, use, and communication of personal information about their location.” Küpper and Treu [53, p. 233] define location privacy as “the capability of the target person to exercise control about who may access her location information in which situation and in which level of detail.” Both definitions focus on the aspect of control, cited as a focal matter regarding location privacy [39, p. 2]. With specific reference to LBS, location privacy and related challenges are considered to be of utmost importance. For example, Perusco and Michael [70, pp. 414–415], in providing an overview of studies relating to the social implications of LBS, claim that the principal challenge is privacy.

In [61, p. 5] Michael et al. also state, with respect to GPS tracking, that privacy is the “greatest concern,” resulting in the authors proposing a number of questions relating to the type of location information that should be revealed to other parties, the acceptability of child tracking and employee monitoring, and the requirement for a warrant in the tracking of criminals and terrorists. Similarly, Bennett and Crowe [12, pp. 9–32] reveal the privacy threats to various individuals, for instance those in emergency situations, mobile employees/workers, vulnerable groups (e.g., elderly), family members (notably children and teenagers), telematics application users, rental car clients, recreational users, prisoners, and offenders. In several of these circumstances, location privacy must often be weighed against other conflicting interests, an example of which is the emergency management situation. For instance, Aloudat [2, p. 54] refers to the potential “deadlock” between privacy and security in the emergency context, noting public concerns associated with the move towards a “total surveillance society.”

16.2.5 Data or Information Security

It has been suggested that data or information security in the LBS domain involves prohibiting unauthorized access to location-based information, which is considered a prerequisite for privacy [88, p. 121]. This form of security is concerned with “implementing security measures to ensure that collected data is only accessed for the agreed-upon purpose” [46, p. 1]. It is not, however, limited to access but is also related to “unwanted tracking” and the protection of data and information from manipulation and distortion [10, p. 185]. The techniques and approaches available to prevent unauthorized access and minimize chances of manipulation include the use of “spatially aware access control systems” [34, p. 28] and security- and privacy-preserving functionality [9, p. 568]. The intricacies of these techniques are beyond the scope of this investigation. Rather, this section is restricted to coverage of the broad data and information security challenges and the resultant impact on LBS usage and adoption.

16.2.6 Impact of Data or Information Security on LBS Market Adoption

It has been suggested that data and information security is a fundamental concern influencing LBS market adoption. From a legal standpoint, security is an imperative concept, particularly in cases where location information is linked to an individual [41, p. 22]. In such situations, safeguarding location data or information has often been described as a decisive aspect impacting on user acceptance. These claims are supported in [85, p. 1], noting that user acceptance of location and context-aware m-business applications are closely linked to security challenges. Hence, from the perspective of organizations wishing to be “socially-responsive,” Chen et al. [19, p. 7] advise that security breaches must be avoided in the interest of economic stability:

Firms must reassure customers about how location data are used…A security lapse, with accompanying publicity in the media and possible ‘negligence’ lawsuits, may prove harmful to both sales and the financial stability of the firm.

Achieving satisfactory levels of security in location- and context-aware services, however, is a tricky task given the general issues associated with the development of security solutions; inevitable conflicts between protection and functionality; mobile-specific security challenges; inadequacy of standards to account for complex security features; and privacy and control-related issues [85, pp. 1–2]. Furthermore, developing secure LBS involves consideration of multiple factors; specifically those related to data or information accuracy, loss, abuse, unauthorized access, modification, storage, and transfer [83, p. 10]. There is the additional need to consider security issues from multiple stakeholder perspectives, in order to identify shared challenges and accurately assess their implications and the manner in which suitable security features can be integrated into LBS solutions. Numerous m-business security challenges relevant to LBS from various perspectives are listed in [85]. Data security challenges relevant to LBS are also discussed in [57, pp. 44–46].

16.3 Privacy and Security Issues

16.3.1 Access to Location Information Versus Privacy Protection

The issue of privacy in emergency situations, in particular, is delicate. For instance, Quinn [73, p. 225] remarks on the benefits of LBS in safety-related situations, with particular reference to the enhanced 911 Directive in the US, which stipulates that the location of mobile phones be provided in emergency situations, aiding in emergency response efforts. The author continues to identify “loss of privacy” as a consequence of this service, specifically in cases where location details are provided to third parties [73, p. 226]. Such claims imply that there may be conflicting aims in developing and utilizing LBS. Duckham [38, p. 1] explains this point, stating that the major challenge in the LBS realm is managing the competing aims of enabling improved access to location information versus allowing individuals to maintain a sufficient amount of control over such information. The latter is achieved through the deployment of techniques for location privacy protection.

16.3.2 Location Privacy Protection

It is valid at this point to discuss approaches to location privacy protection. Bennett and Grant [13, p. 7] claim that general approaches to privacy protection in the digital age may come in varied forms, including, but not limited to, privacy-enhancing technologies, self-regulation approaches, and advocacy. In terms of LBS, substantial literature is available proposing techniques for location privacy protection, at both the theoretical and practical levels. A number of these techniques are best summarized in [39, p. 13] as “regulation, privacy policies, anonymity, and obfuscation.” A review of complementary research on the topic of privacy and LBS indicate that location privacy has predominantly been examined in terms of the social challenges and trade-offs from theoretical and practical perspectives; the technological solutions available to maintain location privacy; and the need for other regulatory response(s)to address location privacy concerns. The respective streams of literature are now inspected further in this chapter.

16.3.3 Social Challenges and Trade-Offs

In reviewing existing literature, the social implications of LBS with respect to privacy tend to be centered on the concepts of invasion, trade-off, and interrelatedness and complexity. The first refers primarily to the perceived and actual intrusion or invasion of privacy resulting from LBS development, deployment, usage, and other aspects. Alternatively, the trade-off notion signifies the weighing of privacy interest against other competing factors, notably privacy versus convenience (including personalization) and privacy versus national security. On the other hand, the factors of interrelatedness and complexity refer to the complicated relationship between privacy and other ethical dilemmas or themes such as control, trust, and security.

With respect to the invasion concept, Westin notes that concerns regarding invasion of privacy were amplified during the 1990s in both the social and political spheres [91, p. 444]. Concentrating specifically on LBS, [62, p. 6] provides a summary of the manner in which LBS can be perceived as privacy-invasive, claiming that GPS tracking activities can threaten or invade the privacy of the individual. According to the authors, such privacy concerns can be attributed to a number of issues regarding the process of GPS tracking. These include: (1) questionable levels of accuracy and reliability of GPS data, (2) potential to falsify the data post-collection, (3) capacity for behavioral profiling, (4) ability to reveal spatial information at varying levels of detail depending on the GIS software used, and (5) potential for tracking efforts to become futile upon extended use as an individual may become nonchalant about the exercise [62, pp. 4–5]. Other scholars examine the invasion concept in various contexts. Varied examples include [55] in relation to mobile advertising, [51] in view of monitoring employee locations, and [79] regarding privacy invasion and legislation in the United States concerning personal location information.

Current studies declare that privacy interests must often be weighed against other, possibly competing, factors, notably the need for convenience and national security. That is, various strands of LBS literature are fixed on addressing the trade-off between convenience and privacy protection. For instance, in a field study of mobile guide services, Kaasinen [50, p. 49] supports the need for resolving such a trade-off, arguing that “effortless use” often results in lower levels of user control and, therefore, privacy. Other scholars reflect on the trade-off between privacy and national security. In an examination of the legal, ethical, social, and technological issues associated with the widespread use of LBS, Perusco et al. [71] propose the LBS privacy–security dichotomy. The dichotomy is a means of representing the relationship between the privacy of the individual and national security concerns at the broader social level [71, pp. 91–97]. The authors claim that a balance must be achieved between both factors. They also identify the elements contributing to privacy risk and security risk, expressing the privacy risks associated with LBS to be omniscience, exposure, and corruption, claiming that the degree of danger is reduced with the removal of a specific risk [71, pp. 95–96]. The lingering question proposed by the authors is “how much privacy are we willing to trade in order to increase security?” [71, p. 96]. Whether in the interest of convenience or national security, existing studies focus on the theoretical notion of the privacy calculus. This refers to a situation in which an individual attempts to balance perceived value or benefits arising from personalized services against loss of privacy in determining whether to disclose information (refer to [833789495]).

The relationship between privacy and other themes is a common topic of discussion in existing literature. That is, privacy, control, security, and trust are key and interrelated themes concerning the social implications of LBS [71, pp. 97–98]. It is, therefore, suggested that privacy and the remaining social considerations be studied in light of these associations rather than as independent themes or silos of information. In particular, privacy and control literature are closely correlated, and as such the fields of surveillance and dataveillance must be flagged as crucial in discussions surrounding privacy. Additionally, there are studies which suggest that privacy issues are closely linked to notions of trust and perceived risk in the minds of users [444849], thereby affecting a user’s decision to engage with LBS providers and technologies. It is commonly acknowledged in LBS privacy literature that resolutions will seek consensus between issues of privacy, security, control, risk, and trust—all of which must be technologically supported.

16.3.4 Personal Safety and Physical Security

LBS applications are often justified as valid means of maintaining personal safety, ensuring physical security and generally avoiding dangerous circumstances, through solutions that can be utilized for managing emergencies, tracking children, monitoring individuals suffering from illness or disability, and preserving security in employment situations. Researchers have noted that safety and security efforts may be enhanced merely through knowledge of an individual’s whereabouts [71, p. 94], offering care applications with notable advantages [61, p. 4].

16.3.5 Applications in the Marketplace

Devices and solutions that capitalize on these facilities have thus been developed, and are now commercially available for public use. They include GPS-enabled wristwatches, bracelets, and other wearable items [59, pp. 425–426], in addition to their supportive applications that enable remote viewing or monitoring of location (and other) information. Assistive applications are one such example, such as those technologies and solutions suited to the navigation requirements of vision impaired or blind individuals [75, p. 104 (example applications are described on pp. 104–105)].

Alternative applications deliver tracking capabilities as their primary function; an example is the Australian-owned Fleetfinder PT2 Personal Tracker, which is advertised as a device capable of safeguarding children, teenagers, and the elderly [64]. These devices and applications promise “live on-demand” tracking and “a solid sense of reassurance” [15], which may be appealing for parents, carers, and individuals interested in protecting others. Advertisements and product descriptions are often emotionally charged, taking advantage of an individual’s (parent or carer) desire to maintain the safety and security of loved ones:

Your child going missing is every parent’s worst nightmare. Even if they’ve just wandered off to another part of the park the fear and panic is instant… [It] will help give you peace of mind and act as an extra set of eyes to look out for your child. It will also give them a little more freedom to play and explore safely [56].

16.3.6 Risks Versus Benefits of LBS Security and Safety Solutions

Despite such promotion and endorsement, numerous studies point to the dangers of LBS safety and security applications. Since their inception, individuals and users have voiced privacy concerns, which have been largely disregarded by proponents of the technology, chiefly vendors, given the (seemingly) voluntary nature of technology and device usage [6, p. 7]. The argument claiming technology adoption to be optional thereby placing the onus on the user is certainly weak and flawed, particularly given situations where an individual is incapable of making an informed decision regarding monitoring activities, supplementary to covert deployment options that may render monitoring activities obligatory. The consequences arising from covert monitoring are explored in [59] (refer to pp. 430–432 for implications of covert versus overt tracking of familiy member) and [1]. Covert and/or mandatory overt monitoring of minors and individuals suffering from illness is particularly problematic, raising doubt and questions in relation to the necessity of consent processes in addition to the suitability of tracking and what constitutes appropriate use.

In [59, p. 426] Mayer claims that there is a fine line between using tracking technologies, such as GPS, for safety purposes within the family context and improper use. Child tracking, for instance, has been described as a controversial area centered on the safety versus trust and privacy debate [77, p. 7]. However, the argument is not limited to issues of trust and privacy. Patel discusses the dynamics in the parent–child relationship and conveys a number of critical points in relation to wearable and embedded tracking technologies. In particular, Patel provides the legal perspective on child (teenager) monitoring [68, pp. 430–435] and other emergent issues or risks (notably linked to embedded monitoring solutions), which may be related to medical complications, psychological repercussions, and unintended or secondary use [68, pp. 444–455]. In Patel’s article, these issues are offset by an explanation of the manner in which parental fears regarding child safety, some of which are unfounded, and the role of the media in publicizing cases of this nature, fuel parents’ need for monitoring teenagers, whereas ultimately the decision to be monitored (according to the author), particularly using embedded devices, should ultimately lie with the teenager [68, pp. 437–442].

16.3.7 Safety of “Vulnerable” Individuals

Similarly, monitoring individuals with an illness or intellectual disability, such as a person with dementia wandering, raises a unique set of challenges in addition to the aforementioned concerns associated with consent, psychological issues, and misuse in the child or teenager tracking scenario. For instance, while dementia wandering and other similar applications are designed to facilitate the protection and security of individuals, they can concurrently be unethical in situations where reliability and responsiveness, amongst other factors, are in question [61, p. 7]. Based on a recent qualitative, focus group study seeking the attitudes of varied stakeholders in relation to the use of GPS for individuals with cognitive disabilities [54, p. 360], it was clear that this is an area fraught with indecisiveness as to the suitability of assistive technologies [54, p. 358]. The recommendations emerging from [54, pp. 361–364] indicate the need to “balance” safety with independence and privacy, to ensure that the individual suffering from dementia is involved in the decision to utilize tracking technologies, and that a consent process is in place, among other suggestions that are technical and devices related.

While much can be written about LBS applications in the personal safety and physical security categories, including their advantages and disadvantages, this discussion is limited to introductory material. Relevant to this chapter is the portrayal of the tensions arising from the use of solutions originally intended for protection and the resultant consequences, some of which are indeed inadvertent. That is, while the benefits of LBS are evident in their ability to maintain safety and security, they can indeed result in risks, such as the use of LBS for cyber stalking others. In establishing the need for LBS regulation, it is, therefore, necessary to appreciate that there will always be a struggle between benefits and risks relating to LBS implementation and adoption.

16.3.8 National Security

Safety and security debates are not restricted to family situations but may also incorporate, as [59, p. 437] indicates, public safety initiatives and considerations, amongst others, that can contribute to the decline in privacy. These schemes include national security, which has been regarded a priority area by various governments for over a decade. The Australian government affirms that the nation’s security can be compromised or threatened through various acts of “espionage, foreign interference, terrorism, politically motivated violence, border violations, cyber attack, organised crime, natural disasters and biosecurity events” [7]. Accordingly, technological approaches and solutions have been proposed and implemented to support national security efforts in Australia, and globally. Positioning technologies, specifically, have been adopted as part of government defense and security strategies, a detailed examination of which can be found in [60], thus facilitating increased surveillance. Surveillance schemes have, therefore, emerged as a result of the perceived and real threats to national security promoted by governments [92, p. 389], and according to [63, p. 2] have been legitimized as a means of ensuring national security, thereby granting governments “extraordinary powers that never could have been justified previously” [71, p. 94]. In [20, p. 216], Cho maintains that the fundamental question is “which is the greater sin—to invade privacy or to maintain surveillance for security purposes?”

16.3.9 Proportionality: National Security Versus Individual Privacy

The central theme surfacing in relevant LBS scholarship is that of proportionality; that is, measuring the prospective security benefits against the impending privacy- and freedom-related concerns. For example, [71, pp. 95–96] proposes the privacy–security dichotomy, as means of illustrating the need for balance between an individual’s privacy and a nation’s security, where the privacy and security elements within the model contain subcomponents that collectively contribute to amplify risk in a given context. A key point to note in view of this discussion is that while the implementation of LBS may enhance security levels, this will inevitably come at the cost of privacy [71, pp. 95–96] and freedom [61, p. 9].

Furthermore, forsaking privacy corresponds to relinquishing personal freedom, a consequential cost of heightened security in threatening situations. Such circumstances weaken the effects of invasive techniques and increase, to some degree, individuals’ tolerance to them [41, p. 12]. In particular, they “tilt the balance in favor of sacrificing personal freedom for the sake of public safety and security” [36, p. 50]. For example, Davis and Silver [35] report that the trade-off between civil liberties and privacy is often correlated with an individual’s sense of threat. In reporting on a survey of Americans post the events of September 11, 2011, the authors conclude that civil liberties are often relinquished in favor of security in high-threat circumstances [35, p. 35], in that citizens are “willing to tolerate greater limits on civil liberties” [35, p. 74]. Similarly, in a dissertation centered on the social implications of auto-ID and LBS technologies, Tootell [86] presents the Privacy, Security, and Liberty Trichotomy, as a means of understanding the interaction between the three values [86: chapter 6]. Tootell concludes that a dominant value will always exist that is unique to each individual [86, pp. 162–163].

Furthermore, researchers such as Gould [45, p. 75] have found that while people are generally approving of enhanced surveillance, they simultaneously have uncertainties regarding government monitoring. From a government standpoint, there is a commonly held and weak view that if an individual has nothing to hide, then privacy is insignificant, an argument particularly popular in relation to state-based surveillance [81, p. 746]. However, this perspective has inherent flaws, as the right to privacy should not be narrowly perceived in terms of concealment of what would be considered unfavorable activities, discussed further by [81, pp. 764–772]. Furthermore, the “civil liberties vs. security trade-off has mainly been framed as one of protecting individual rights or civil liberties from the government as the government seeks to defend the country against a largely external enemy” [35, p. 29].

Wigan and Clarke state, in relation to national security, that “surveillance systems are being developed without any guiding philosophy that balances human rights against security concerns, and without standards or guidance in relation to social impact assessment, and privacy design features” [92, p. 400]. Solove [82, p. 362] agrees that a balance can be achieved between security and liberty, through oversight and control processes that restrict prospective uses of personal data. In the current climate, given the absence of such techniques, fears of an Orwellian society dominated by intense and excessive forms of surveillance materialize. However, Clarke [27, p. 39] proposes a set of “counterveillance” principles in response to extreme forms of surveillance introduced in the name of national security, which include:

independent evaluation of technology; a moratorium on technology deployments; open information flows; justification of proposed measures; consultation and participation; evaluation; design principles; balance; independent controls; nymity and multiple identity; and rollback.

The absence of such principles creates a situation in which extremism reigns, producing a flow-on effect with potentially dire consequences in view of privacy, but also trust and control.

16.4 Solutions

16.4.1 Technological Solutions

In discussing technology and privacy in general, Krumm [52, p. 391] notes that computation-based mechanisms can be employed both to safeguard and to invade privacy. It is, therefore, valuable to distinguish between privacy-invasive technologies (PITs) and privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs). Clarke [23] examines the conflict between PITs and PETs, which are tools that can be employed to invade and protect privacy interests respectively. Technologies can invade privacy either deliberately as part of their primary purpose, or alternatively their invasive nature may emerge in secondary uses [2324, p. 209]. The aspects contributing to the privacy-invasive nature of location and tracking technologies or transactions include the awareness level of the individual, whether an individual has a choice, and the capability of performing an anonymous transaction amongst others [22]. In relation to LBS, [23] cites person-location and person-tracking systems as potential PITs that require the implementation of countermeasures, which to-date have come in the form of PETs or “counter-PITs.”

Existing studies suggest that the technological solutions (i.e., counter-PITs) available to address the LBS privacy challenge are chiefly concerned with degrading the ability to pinpoint location, or alternatively masking the identity of the user. For example, [62, p. 7] suggests that “[l]evels of privacy can be controlled by incorporating intelligent systems and customizing the amount of detail in a given geographic information system”, thus enabling the ethical use of GPS tracking systems. Similarly, other authors present models that anonymize user identity through the use of pseudonyms [14], architectures and algorithms that decrease location resolution [46], and systems that introduce degrees of obfuscation [37]. Notably, scholars such as Duckham [37, p. 7] consider location privacy protection as involving multiple strategies, citing regulatory techniques and privacy policies as supplementary strategies to techniques that are more technological in nature, such as obfuscation.

16.4.2 Need for Additional Regulatory Responses

Clarke and Wigan [31] examine the threats posed by location and tracking technologies, particularly those relating to privacy, stating that “[t]hose technologies are now well-established, yet they lack a regulatory framework.” A suitable regulatory framework for LBS (that addresses privacy amongst other social and ethical challenges) may be built on numerous approaches, including the technical approaches described in Sect. 16.4.1. Other approaches are explored by Xu et al. [95] in their quasi-experimental survey of privacy challenges relevant to push versus pull LBS. The approaches include compensation (incentives), industry self-regulation, and government regulation strategies [95, p. 143]. According to Xu et al., these “intervention strategies,” may have an impact on the privacy calculus in LBS [95, pp. 136–137]. Notably, their survey of 528 participants found that self-regulation has a considerable bearing on perceived risk for both push and pull services, whereas perceived risks for compensation and government regulation strategies vary depending on types of services. That is, compensation increases perceived benefit in the push but not the pull model and, similarly, government regulation reduces perceived privacy risk in the push-based model [95, p. 158].

It should be acknowledged that a preliminary step in seeking a solution to the privacy dilemma, addressing the identified social concerns, and proposing appropriate regulatory responses is to clearly identify and assess the privacy-invasive elements of LBS in a given context- we have used Australia as an example in this instance. Possible techniques that can be employed to identify risks and implications, and consequently possible mitigation strategies, are a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) or employing other novel models such as the framework of contextual integrity.

16.4.3 Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA)

A PIA can be defined as “a systematic process that identifies and evaluates, from the perspectives of all stakeholders, the potential effects on privacy of a project, initiative or proposed system or scheme, and includes a search for ways to avoid or mitigate negative privacy impacts” [2930]. The PIA tool, originally linked to technology and impact assessments [28, p. 125], is effectively a “risk management” technique that involves addressing both positive and negative impacts of a project or proposal, but with a greater focus on the latter [67, pp. 4–5].

PIAs were established and developed from 1995 to 2005, and possess a number of distinct qualities, some of which are that a PIA is focused on a particular initiative, takes a forward-looking and preventative as opposed to retrospective approach, broadly considers the various aspects of privacy (i.e., privacy of person, personal behavior, personal communication, and personal data), and is inclusive in that it accounts for the interests of relevant entities [28, pp. 124–125]. Regarding the Australian context, the development of PIAs in Australia can be observed in the work of Clarke [30] who provides an account of PIA maturity pre-2000, post-2000, and the situation in 2010.

16.4.4 Framework of Contextual Integrity

The framework of contextual integrity, introduced by [65], is an alternative approach that can be employed to assess whether LBS, as a socio-technical system, violates privacy and thus contextual integrity. An overview of the framework is provided in [65, p. 14]:

The central claim is that contextual integrity captures the meaning of privacy in relation to personal information; predicts people’s reactions to new technologies because it captures what we care about when we question, protest, and resist them; and finally, offers a way to carefully evaluate these disruptive technologies. In addition, the framework yields practical, step-by-step guidelines for evaluating systems in question, which it calls the CI Decision Heuristic and the Augmented CI Decision Heuristic.

According to Nissenbaum [65], the primary phases within the framework are: (1) explanation, which entails assessing a new system or practice in view of “context-relative informational norms” [65, p. 190], (2) evaluation, which involves “comparing altered flows in relation to those that were previously entrenched” [65, p. 190], and (3) prescription, a process based on evaluation, whereby if a system or practice is deemed “morally or politically problematic,” it has grounds for resistance, redesign or being discarded [65, p. 191]. Within these phases are distinct stages: establish the prevailing context, determine key actors, ascertain what attributes are affected, establish changes in principles of transmission, and red flag, if there are modifications in actors, attributes, or principles of transmission [65, pp. 149–150].

The framework of contextual integrity and, similarly, PIAs are relevant to this study, and may be considered as valid tools for assessing the privacy-invasive or violating nature of LBS and justifying the need for some form of regulation. This is particularly pertinent as LBS present unique privacy challenges, given their reliance on knowing the location of the target. That is, the difficulty in maintaining location privacy is amplified due to the fact that m-commerce services and mobility in general, by nature, imply knowledge of the user’s location and preferences [40, p. 463]. Therefore, it is likely that there will always be a trade-off ranging in severity. Namely, one end of the privacy continuum will demand that stringent privacy mechanisms be implemented, while the opposing end will support and justify increased surveillance practices.

16.5 Challenges

16.5.1 Relationship Between Privacy, Security, Control and Trust

A common thread in discussions relating to privacy and security implications of LBS throughout this chapter has been 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 [36, 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 [18, p. 105]. According to Casal [18, 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 [59, p. 436]. The underlying question, according to Mayer [59, p. 435] is in relation to the power struggle between those seeking privacy versus 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 [59] 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 several themes presented or alluded to throughout this chapter; notably privacy and security, but also the themes of control and trust. 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 [70, pp. 13–14]. The interrelatedness of themes is illustrated in Fig. 16.1.

Fig. 16.1: Relationship between control, trust, privacy, and security, after [70, p. 14]

It is thus evident that the idea of balance resurfaces, with the requirement to weigh multiple and competing themes and interests. This notion is not new with respect to location monitoring and tracking. For instance, Mayer [59, p. 437] notes, in the child tracking context, that there is the requirement to resolve numerous questions and challenges in a legal or regulatory sense, noting that “[t]he key is balancing one person’s need for privacy with another person’s need to know, but who will define this balancing point?” Issues of age, consent, and reciprocal monitoring are also significant. Existing studies on location disclosure amongst social relations afford the foundations for exploring the social and ethical challenges for LBS, whilst simultaneously appreciating technical considerations or factors. Refer to [51632424347628487].

16.6 Conclusion

This chapter has provided an examination of privacy and security with respect to location-based services. There is a pressing need to ensure LBS privacy threats are not dismissed from a regulatory perspective. Doing so will introduce genuine dangers, such as psychological, social, cultural, scientific, economic, political, and democratic harm; dangers associated with profiling; increased visibility; publically damaging revelations; and oppression [31]. Additionally, the privacy considerations unique to the “locational or mobile dimension” require educating the general public regarding disclosure and increased transparency on the part of providers in relation to collection and use of location information [11, p. 15]. Thus, in response to the privacy challenges associated with LBS, and based on current scholarship, this research recognizes the need for technological solutions, in addition to commitment and adequate assessment or consideration at the social and regulatory levels. Specifically, the privacy debate involves contemplation of privacy policies and regulatory frameworks, in addition to technical approaches such as obfuscation and maintaining anonymity [37, p. 7]. That is, privacy-related technical solutions must also be allied with supportive public policy and socially acceptable regulatory structures.

For additional readings relevant to LBS and privacy, which include an adequate list of general references for further investigation, refer to [17] on privacy challenges relevant to privacy invasive geo-mash-ups, the inadequacy of information privacy laws and potential solutions in the form of technological solutions, social standards and legal frameworks; [12] report submitted to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, focused on mobile surveillance, the privacy dangers, and legal consequences; and [57] report to the Canadian Privacy Commissioner dealing with complementary issues associated with mobility, location technologies, and privacy.

Based on the literature presented throughout this chapter, a valid starting point in determining the privacy-invasive nature of specific LBS applications is to review and employ the available solution(s). These solutions or techniques are summarized in Table 16.1, in terms of the merits and benefits of each approach and the extent to which they offer means of overcoming or mitigating privacy-related risks. The selection of a particular technique is dependent on the context or situation in question. Once the risks are identified it is then possible to develop and select an appropriate mitigation strategy to reduce or prevent the negative implications of utilizing certain LBS applications. This chapter is intended to provide a review of scholarship in relation to LBS privacy and security, and should be used as the basis for future research into the LBS privacy dilemma, and related regulatory debate.

Table 16.1 Summary of solutions and techniques

Solution/Technique | Merits | Limitations

Technological mechanisms

• Provide location obfuscation and anonymity in required situations

• Myriad of solutions available depending on level of privacy required

• In-built mechanisms requiring limited user involvement

• Unlike regulatory solutions, technological solutions encourage industry development

• Result in degradation in location quality/resolution

Regulatory mechanisms

• Variety of techniques available, such as industry self-regulation and government legislation

• Can offer legal protection to individuals in defined situations/scenarios

• Can be limiting in terms of advancement of LBS industry

Impact assessments, contextual frameworks, and internal policies

• Provide proactive approach in identifying privacy (and related) risks

• Used to develop suitable mitigation strategies

• Preventative and inclusive in nature

• Tend to be skewed in focus, focusing primarily on negative implications

• Can be limiting in terms of advancement of LBS industry


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Citation: Abbas R., Michael K., Michael M.G. (2015) "Location-Based Privacy, Protection, Safety, and Security." In: Zeadally S., Badra M. (eds) Privacy in a Digital, Networked World. Computer Communications and Networks. Springer, Cham, DOI: https://doi-org.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/10.1007/978-3-319-08470-1_16

Using a Social-Ethical Framework to Evaluate Location-Based Services



The idea for an Internet of Things has matured since its inception as a concept in 1999. People today speak openly of a Web of Things and People, and even more broadly of an Internet of Everything. As our relationships become more and more complex and enmeshed, through the use of advanced technologies, we have pondered on ways to simplify flows of communications, to collect meaningful data, and use them to make timely decisions with respect to optimisation and efficiency. At their core, these flows of communications are pathways to registers of interaction, and tell the intricate story of outputs at various units of analysis- things, vehicles, animals, people, organisations, industries, even governments. In this trend toward evidence-based enquiry, data is the enabling force driving the growth of IoT infrastructure. This paper uses the case of location-based services, which are integral to IoT approaches, to demonstrate that new technologies are complex in their effects on society. Fundamental to IoT is the spatial element, and through this capability, the tracking and monitoring of everything, from the smallest nut and bolt, to the largest shipping liner to the mapping of planet earth, and from the whereabouts of the minor to that of the prime minister. How this information is stored, who has access, and what they will do with it, is arguable depending on the stated answers. In this case study of location-based services we concentrate on control and trust, two overarching themes that have been very much neglected, and use the outcomes of this research to inform the development of a socio-ethical conceptual framework that can be applied to minimise the unintended negative consequences of advanced technologies. We posit it is not enough to claim objectivity through information ethics approaches alone, and present instead a socio-ethical impact framework. Sociality therefore binds together that higher ideal of praxis where the living thing (e.g. human) is the central and most valued actor of a system.


Introduction 1.1. 3

Control 1.2. 4

Surveillance 1.2.1. 5

Common surveillance metaphors 1.2.2. 5

Applying surveillance metaphors to LBS 1.2.3. 7

‘Geoslavery’ 1.2.4. 7

From state-based to citizen level surveillance 1.2.5. 7

Dataveillance 1.2.6. 8

Risks associated with dataveillance 1.2.7. 8

Loss of control 1.2.8. 8

Studies focussing on user requirements for control 1.2.9. 10

Monitoring using LBS: control versus care? 1.2.10. 10

Sousveillance 1.2.11. 11

Sousveillance, ‘reflectionism’ and control 1.2.12. 11

Towards überveillance 1.2.13. 12

Implications of überveillance on control 1.2.14. 13

Comparing the different forms of ‘veillance’ 1.2.15. 14

Identification 1.2.16. 14

Social sorting 1.2.17. 15

Profiling 1.2.18. 15

Digital personas and dossiers 1.2.19. 15

Trust 1.3. 16

Trust in the state 1.3.1. 17

Balancing trust and privacy in emergency services 1.3.2. 17

Trust-related implications of surveillance in the interest of national security 1.3.3. 17

Need for justification and cultural sensitivity 1.3.4. 18

Trust in corporations/LBS/IoT providers 1.3.5. 19

Importance of identity and privacy protection to trust 1.3.6. 19

Maintaining consumer trust 1.3.7. 20

Trust in individuals/others 1.3.8. 20

Consequences of workplace monitoring 1.3.9. 20

Location-monitoring amongst friends 1.3.10. 21

Location tracking for protection 1.3.11. 21

LBS/IoT is a ‘double-edged sword’ 1.3.12. 22

Discussion 1.4. 22

The Internet of Things (IoT) and LBS: extending the discussion on control and trust 1.4.1. 22

Control- and trust-related challenges in the IoT 1.4.2. 23

Ethical analysis: proposing a socio-ethical conceptual framework 1.4.3. 24

The need for objectivity 1.4.4. 25

Difficulties associated with objectivity 1.4.5. 26

Conclusion 1.5. 27


Introduction 1.1

Locative technologies are a key component of the Internet of Things (IoT). Some scholars go so far as to say it is the single most important component that enables the monitoring and tracking of subjects and objects. Knowing where something or someone is, is of greater importance than knowing who they are because it or they can be found, independent of what or who they are. Location also grants us that unique position on the earth’s surface, providing for us one of the vital pieces of information forming the distance, speed, time matrix. A unique ID, formed around an IP address in an IoT world, presents us with the capability to label every living and non-living thing and to recollect it, adding to its history and longer term physical lifetime. But without knowing where something is, even if we have the knowledge that an action is required toward some level of maintenance, we cannot be responsive. Since the introduction of electronic databases, providing accurate records for transaction processing has been a primary aim. Today, however, we are attempting to increase visibility using high resolution geographic details, we are contextualizing events through discrete and sometimes continuous sensor-based rich audio-visual data collection, and we are observing how mobile subjects and objects interact with the built environment. We are no longer satisfied with an approach that says identify all things, but we wish to be able to recollect or activate them on demand, understand associations and affiliations, creating a digital chronicle of its history to provide insights toward sustainability.

There is thus an undue pressure on the ethical justification for social and behavioral tracking of people and things in everyday life. Solely because we have the means to do something, it does not mean we should do it. We are told that through this new knowledge gained from big data we can reduce carbon emissions, we can eradicate poverty, we can grant all people equity in health services, we can better provision for expected food shortages, utilize energy resources optimally, in short, make the world a better place. This utopian view might well be the vision that the tech sector wish to adopt as an honourable marketing strategy, but the reality of thousands of years of history tells us that technology does not necessarily on its own accord, make things better. In fact, it has often made some aspects of life, such as conflict and war, much worse through the use of modern, sophisticated advanced techniques. We could argue that IoT will allow for care-based surveillance that will bring about aid to individuals and families given needs, but the reality is that wherever people are concerned, technology may be exploited towards a means for control. Control on its own is not necessarily an evil, it all depends on how the functionality of given technologies are applied. Applied negatively the recipient of this control orientation learns distrust instead of trust which then causes a chain reaction throughout society, especially with respect to privacy and security. We need only look at the techniques espoused by some governments in the last 200 years to acknowledge that heinous crimes against humanity (e.g. democide) have been committed with new technological armaments (Rummel, 1997) to the detriment of the citizenry.                                                         

A socio-ethical framework is proposed as a starting point for seeking to understand the social implications of location services, applicable to current and future applications within IoT infrastructure. To stop at critiquing services using solely an information ethics-based approach is to fall short. Today’s converging services and systems require a greater scope of orientation to ask more generally how society may be affected at large, not just whether information is being collected, stored, and shared appropriately. To ask questions about how location services and IoT technology will directly and indirectly change society has far greater importance for the longer term vision of person-to-person and person-to-thing interactions than simply studying various attributes in a given register.

Studies addressing the social implications of emerging technologies, such as LBS, generally reflect on the risks and ethical dilemmas 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, in simple terms, can be considered as the “study of morality” (Quinn 2006, p. 55), 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).

According to the literature, there are two prominent ethical dilemmas that emerge with respect to locating a person or thing in an Internet of Things world. First, the risk of unauthorised disclosure of one’s location which is a breach of privacy; and second the possibility of increased monitoring leading to unwarranted surveillance by institutions and individuals. The socio-ethical implications of LBS in the context of IoT can therefore be explored based on these two major factors. IoT more broadly, however, can be examined by studying numerous social and ethical dilemmas from differing perspectives. Michael et al. (2006a, 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 dimensions of privacy, accuracy, property and accessibility (Michael et al. 2006a, 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). These themes provide a conceptual framework for reviewing relevant literature in a structured fashion, given that a large number of studies are available in the respective areas.

This article, in the first instance, focusses on the control- and trust-related socio-ethical challenges arising from the deployment of LBS in the context of IoT, two themes that are yet to receive comprehensive coverage in the literature. This is followed by an examination of LBS in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT), and the ensuing ethical considerations. A socio-ethical framework is proposed as a valid starting point for addressing the social implications of LBS and delivering a conceptual framework that is applicable to current LBS use cases and future applications within an Internet of Things world.

Control 1.2

Control, according to the Oxford Dictionary (2012a), refers to the “the power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or the course of events”. With respect to LBS, this theme is examined in terms of a number of important concepts, notably surveillance, dataveillance, sousveillance and überveillance scholarship.

Surveillance 1.2.1

A prevailing notion in relation to control and LBS is the idea of exerting power over individuals through various forms of surveillance. Surveillance, according to sociologist David Lyon, “is the focused, systematic and routine attention to personal details for the purposes of influence, management, protection and or direction,” although Lyon admits that there are exceptions to this general definition (Lyon 2007, p. 14). Surveillance has also been described as the process of methodically monitoring the behaviour, statements, associates, actions and/or communications of an individual or individuals, and is centred on information collection (Clarke 1997; Clarke 2005, p. 9).

The act of surveillance, according to Clarke (1988; 1997) can either take the form of personal surveillance of a specific individual or mass surveillance of groups of interest. Wigan and Clarke (2006, p. 392) also introduce the categories of object surveillance of a particular item and area surveillance of a physical enclosure. Additional means of expressing the characteristics of surveillance exist. For example, the phrase “surveillance schemes” has been used to describe the various surveillance initiatives available (Clarke 2007a, p. 28). Such schemes have been demonstrated through the use of a number of mini cases or vignettes, which include, but are not limited to, baby monitoring, acute health care, staff movement monitoring, vehicle monitoring, goods monitoring, freight interchange-point monitoring, monitoring of human-attached chips, monitoring of human-embedded chips, and continuous monitoring of chips (Clarke 2007c; Clarke 2007b, pp. 47-60). The vignettes are intended to aid in understanding the desirable and undesirable social impacts resulting from respective schemes.

Common surveillance metaphors 1.2.2

In examining the theme of control with respect to LBS, it is valuable to initially refer to general surveillance scholarship to aid in understanding the link between LBS and surveillance. Surveillance literature is somewhat dominated by the use of metaphors to express the phenomenon. A prevalent metaphor is that of the panopticon, first introduced by Jeremy Bentham (Bentham and Bowring 1843), and later examined by Michel Foucault (1977). Foucault’s seminal piece Discipline and Punish traces the history of punishment, commencing with the torture of the body in the eighteenth century, through to more modern forms of punishment targeted at the soul (Foucault 1977). In particular, Foucault’s account offers commentary on the notions of surveillance, control and power through his examination of Bentham’s panopticon, which are pertinent in analysing surveillance in general and monitoring facilitated by LBS in particular. The panopticon, or “Inspection-House” (Bentham and Bowring 1843, p. 37), refers to Bentham’s design for a prison based on the essential notion of “seeing without being seen” (p. 44). The architecture of the panopticon is as follows:

“The building is circular. The apartments of the prisoners occupy the circumference. You may call them, if you please, the cells... The apartment of the inspector occupies the centre; you may call it if you please the inspector's lodge. It will be convenient in most, if not in all cases, to have a vacant space or area all round, between such centre and such circumference.  You may call it if you please the intermediate or annular area” (Bentham and Bowring 1843, pp. 40-41).

Foucault (1977, p. 200) further illustrates the main features of the inspection-house, and their subsequent implications on constant visibility:

“By the effect of backlighting, one can observe from the tower [‘lodge’], standing out precisely against the light, the small captive shadows in the cells of the periphery. They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible...Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor [‘inspector’] capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap.”

While commonly conceived as ideal for the prison arrangement, the panopticon design is applicable and adaptable to a wide range of establishments, including but not limited to work sites, hospital, schools, and/or or any establishment in which individuals “are to be kept under inspection” (Bentham and Bowring 1843, p. 37). It has been suggested, however, that the panopticon functions as a tool for mass (as opposed to personal) surveillance in which large numbers of individuals are monitored, in an efficient sense, by a small number (Clarke 2005, p. 9). This differs from the more efficient, automated means of dataveillance (to be shortly examined). In enabling mass surveillance, the panopticon theoretically allows power to be. In examining the theme of control with respect to LBS, it is valuable to initially refer to general surveillance scholarship to aid in understanding the link between LBS and surveillance. Surveillance literature is somewhat dominated by the use of metaphors to express the phenomenon. Foucault (1977, pp. 202-203) provides a succinct summary of this point:

“He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.”

This self-disciplinary mechanism functions similarly, and can somewhat be paralleled, to various notions in George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty Four (Orwell 1949), also a common reference point in surveillance literature. Nineteen Eighty Four has been particularly influential in the surveillance realm, notably due to the use of “Big Brother” as a symbol of totalitarian, state-based surveillance. Big Brother’s inescapable presence is reflected in the nature of surveillance activities. That is, that monitoring is constant and omnipresent and that “[n]othing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull” (Orwell 1949, p. 29). The oppressive authority figure of Big Brother possesses the ability to persistently monitor and control the lives of individuals, employing numerous mechanisms to exert power and control over his populace as a reminder of his unavoidable gaze.

One such mechanism is the use of telescreens as the technological solution enabling surveillance practices to be applied. The telescreens operate as a form of self-disciplinary tool by way of reinforcing the idea that citizens are under constant scrutiny (in a similar fashion to the inspector’s lodge in the panopticon metaphor). The telescreens inevitably influence behaviours, enabling the state to maintain control over actions and thoughts, and to impose appropriate punishments in the case of an offence. This is demonstrated in the following excerpt:

“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence” (Orwell 1949, p. 65).

The Internet of Things, with its ability to locate and determine who is or what is related to one another using a multiplicity of technologies, will enable authorities in power to infer what someone is likely to do in a given context. Past behavioural patterns, can for example, reveal a likely course of action with relatively no prediction required. IoT in all its glory will provide complete visibility- the question is what are the risks associated with providing that kind of capability to the state or private enterprise? In scenario analysis we can ponder how IoT in a given context will be used for good, how it will be used for bad, and a neutral case where it will have no effect whatsoever because the data stream will be ignored by the system owner. While IoT has been touted as the ultimate in providing great organisational operational returns, one can see how it can lend itself to location-based tracking and monitoring using a panopticon metaphor. Paper records and registers were used during World War 2 for the purposes of segregation, IoT and especially the ability to “locate on demand”, may well be used for similar types of control purposes.

Applying surveillance metaphors to LBS 1.2.3

The aforementioned surveillance metaphors can be directly applied to the case of LBS within IoT. In the first instance, it can be perceived that the exploitation of emerging technologies, such as LBS, extends the notion of the panopticon in a manner that allows for inspection or surveillance to take place regardless of geographic boundaries or physical locations. When applying the idea of the panopticon to modern technologies, Lyon suggests that “Bentham’s panopticon gives way to the electronic superpanopticon” (Lyon 2001, p. 108). With respect to LBS, this superpanopticon is not limited to and by the physical boundaries of a particular establishment, but is rather reliant on the nature and capabilities of the mobile devices used for ‘inspection’. In an article titled “The Panopticon's Changing Geography”, Dobson and Fischer (2007) also discuss progress and various manifestations of surveillance technology, specifically the panopticon, and the consequent implications on power relationships. From Bentham's architectural design, to the electronic panopticon depicted by Orwell, and contemporary forms of electronic surveillance including LBS and covert human tracking, Dobson and Fisher (2007, p. 308-311) claim that all forms of watching enable continuous surveillance either as part of their primary or secondary purpose. They compare four means of surveillance- analogue technologies as used by spies which have unlimited geographic coverage and are very expensive to own and operate, Bentham’s original panopticon where the geographic view was internal to a building, George Orwell’s big brother view which was bound by the extent of television cables, and finally human tracking systems which were limited only by the availability and granularity of cell phone towers.

A key factor in applying the panopticon metaphor to IoT is that individuals, through the use of mobile location devices and technologies, will be constantly aware of their visibility and will assume the knowledge that an ‘inspector’ may be monitoring their location and other available information remotely at any given time. Mobile location devices may similarly replace Orwell’s idea of the telescreens as Big Brother’s primary surveillance technology, resulting in a situation in which the user is aiding in the process of location data collection and thereby surveillance. This creates, as maintained by Andrejevic (2007, p. 95), a “widening ‘digital enclosure’ within which a variety of interactive devices that provide convenience and customization to users double as technologies for gathering information about them.”

‘Geoslavery’ 1.2.4

Furthermore, in extreme situations, LBS may facilitate a new form of slavery, “geoslavery”, which Dobson and Fischer (2003, pp. 47-48) reveal is “a practice in which one entity, the master, coercively or surreptitiously monitors and exerts control over the physical location of another individual, the slave. Inherent in this concept is the potential for a master to routinely control time, location, speed, and direction for each and every movement of the slave or, indeed, of many slaves simultaneously.” In their seminal work, the authors flag geoslavery as a fundamental human rights issue (Dobson and Fisher 2003, p. 49), one that has the potential to somewhat fulfil Orwell's Big Brother prophecy, differing only in relation to the sophistication of LBS in comparison to visual surveillance and also in terms of who is in control. While Orwell’s focus is on the state, Dobson and Fischer (2003, p. 51) caution that geoslavery can also be performed by individuals “to control other individuals or groups of individuals.”

From state-based to citizen level surveillance 1.2.5

Common in both Discipline and Punish and Nineteen Eighty Four is the perspective that surveillance activities are conducted at the higher level of the “establishment”; that is, institutional and/or state-based surveillance. However, it must be noted that similar notions can be applied at the consumer or citizen level. Mark Andrejevic (2007, p. 212), in his book iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era, terms this form of surveillance as “lateral or peer-to-peer surveillance.” This form of surveillance is characterised by “increasing public access to the means of surveillance – not just by corporations and the state, but by individuals” (Andrejevic 2007, p. 212). Similarly, Barreras and Mathur (2007, pp. 176-177) state that wireless location tracking capabilities are no longer limited to law enforcement, but are open to any interested individual. Abbas et al. (2011, pp. 20-31) further the discussion by focussing on related notions, explicitly, the implications of covert LBS-based surveillance at the community level, where technologies typically associated with policing and law enforcement are increasingly available for use by members of the community. With further reference to LBS, Dobson and Fischer (2003, p. 51) claim that the technology empowers individuals to control other individuals or groups, while also facilitating extreme activities. For instance, child protection, partner tracking and employee monitoring can now take on extreme forms through the employment of LBS (Dobson and Fisher 2003, p. 49). According to Andrejevic (2007, p. 218), this “do-it-yourself” approach assigns the act of monitoring to citizens. In essence higher degrees of control are granted to individuals thereby encouraging their participation in the surveillance process (Andrejevic 2007, pp. 218-222). It is important to understand IoT in the context of this multifaceted “watching”. IoT will not only be used by organisations and government agencies, but individuals in a community will also be granted access to information at small units of aggregated data. This has implications at a multiplicity of levels. Forces of control will be manifold.

Dataveillance 1.2.6

The same sentiments can be applied to the related, and to an extent superseding, notion of data surveillance, commonly referred to as dataveillance. Coined by Roger Clarke in the mid-eighties, dataveillance is defined as “the systematic use of personal data systems in the investigation or monitoring of the actions or communications of one or more persons” (Clarke 1988). Clarke (2005, p. 9) maintains that this process is automated and therefore a relatively economical activity when compared with other forms of surveillance, in that dataveillance activities are centred on examination of the data trails of individuals. For example, traditional forms of surveillance rely on expensive visual monitoring techniques, whereas dataveillance is largely an economically efficient alternative (Clarke 1994; 2001d, p. 11). Visual behavioural monitoring (that is, traditional surveillance) is an issue, but is nonetheless overshadowed by the challenges associated with dataveillance, particularly with reference to personal and mass dataveillance (Clarke 2005, pp. 9-10). That is, personal dataveillance presents risks to the individual based primarily on the potential for the collected data/information to be incorrect or outdated, while mass dataveillance is risky in that it may generate suspicion amongst individuals (Albrecht & Michael, 2013).

Risks associated with dataveillance 1.2.7

Clarke’s early and influential work on “Information Technology and Dataveillance” recognises that information technology is accelerating the growth of dataveillance, which presents numerous benefits and risks (Clarke 1988, pp. 498, 505-507). Clarke lists advantages in terms of safety and government applications, while noting the dangers associated with both personal and mass dataveillance (Clarke 1988, pp. 505-507). These risks can indeed be extended or applied to the use of location and tracking technologies to perform dataveillance activities, resulting in what can be referred to as “dataveillance on the move” (Michael and Michael 2012). The specific risks include: ability for behavioural patterns to be exposed and cross-matched, potentially for revelations that may be harmful from a political and personal perspective, rise in the use of “circumstantial evidence”, transparency of behaviour resulting in the misuse of information relating to an individual’s conduct, and “actual repression of the readily locatable and trackable individual” (Clarke 2001b, p. 219). Emerging from this analysis, and that concerning surveillance and related metaphors, is the significant matter of loss of control.

Loss of control 1.2.8

Michael et al. (2006a, p. 2) state, in the context of GPS tracking, that the issue of control is a leading ethical challenge given the invasive nature of this form of monitoring. The mode of control can differ depending on the context. For instance, the business context may include control through directing or ‘pushing’ advertisements to a specific individual, and at personal/individual level could signify control in the manner of “self-direction” (Perusco et al. 2006, p. 93). Other forms of social control can also be exercised by governments and organisations (Clarke 2003b), while emerging LBS solutions intended for the consumer sector extend the notion of control to community members (Abbas et al. 2011). This is an area that has not been adequately addressed in the literature. The subsequent risks to the individual are summarised in the following passage:

“Location technologies therefore provide, to parties that have access to the data, the power to make decisions about the entity subject to the surveillance, and hence exercise control over it. Where the entity is a person, it enables those parties to make determinations, and to take action, for or against that person’s interests. These determinations and actions may be based on place(s) where the person is, or place(s) where the person has been, but also on place(s) where the person is not, or has not been” (Wigan and Clarke 2006, p. 393).

Therefore GPS and other location devices and technologies may result in decreased levels of control from the perspective of the individual being monitored. For example, in an article based on the use of scenarios to represent the social implications associated with the implementation of LBS, Perusco and Michael (2007) demonstrate the various facets of control in relation to LBS. The discussion is generally centred on the loss of control which can be experienced in numerous ways, such as when a device does not accurately operate, or when an individual constantly monitors a family member in an attempt to care for them (Perusco and Michael 2007, pp. 6-7, 10). The authors raise valuable ideas with respect to control, such as the need to understand the purpose of control, the notion of consent, and developing methods to deal with location inaccuracies amongst others (p. 14). Perusco and Michael further assert that control has a flow-on effect on other issues, such as trust for instance, with the authors questioning whether it is viable to control individuals given the likely risk that trust may be relinquished in the process (p. 13).

Concurrent with loss of control, the issue of pre-emptive control with respect to LBS is a delicate one, specifically in relation to suspected criminals or offenders. Perusco et al. (2006, p. 92) state that the punishment of a crime is typically proportionate to the committed offence, thus the notion of pre-emptive monitoring can be considered fundamentally flawed given that individuals are being punished without having committed an offence. Rather, they are suspected of being a threat. According to Clarke and Wigan (2011), a person is perceived a threat, based on their “personal associations” which can be determined using location and tracking technologies to establish the individual’s location in relation to others, and thus control them based on such details. This is where IoT fundamentally comes into play. While location information can tell us much about where an individual is at any point in time, it is IoT that will reveal the inter-relationships and frequency of interaction, and specific application of measurable transactions. IoT is that layer that will bring things to be scrutinized in new ways.  

This calls for an evaluation of LBS solutions that can be used for covert operations. Covert monitoring using LBS is often considered a useful technique, one that promotes less opposition than overt forms of monitoring, as summarised below:

“Powerful economic and political interests are seeking to employ location and tracking technologies surreptitiously, to some degree because their effectiveness is greater that way, but mostly in order to pre-empt opposition” (Clarke 2001b, p. 221).

Covert applications of LBS are increasingly available for the monitoring and tracking of social relations such as a partner or a child (Abbas et al. 2011). Regardless of whether covert or overt, using LBS for monitoring is essentially about control, irrespective of whether the act of controlling is motivated by necessity, or for more practical or supportive purposes (Perusco et al. 2006, p. 93). 

Studies focussing on user requirements for control 1.2.9

The control dimension is also significant in studies focussing on LBS users, namely, literature concerned with user-centric design, and user adoption and acceptance of LBS and related mobile solutions. In a paper focussing on understanding user requirements for the development of LBS, Bauer et al. (2005, p. 216) report on a user’s “fear” of losing control while interacting with mobile applications and LBS that may infringe on their personal life. The authors perceive loss of control to be a security concern requiring attention, and suggest that developers attempt to relieve the apprehension associated with increased levels of personalisation though ensuring that adequate levels of control are retained (Bauer et al. 2005, p. 216). This is somewhat supported by the research of Xu and Teo (2004, pp. 793-803), in which the authors suggest that there exists a relationship between control, privacy and intention to use LBS. That is, a loss of control results in a privacy breach, which in turn impacts on a user’s intention to embrace LBS.

The aforementioned studies, however, fail to explicitly incorporate the concept of value into their analyses. Due to the lack of literature discussing the three themes of privacy, value and control, Renegar et al. (2008, pp. 1-2) present the privacy-value-control (PVC) trichotomy as a paradigm beneficial for measuring user acceptance and adoption of mobile technologies. This paradigm stipulates the need to achieve harmony amongst the concepts of privacy, value and control in order for a technology to be adopted and accepted by the consumer. However, the authors note that perceptions of privacy, value and control are dependent on a number of factors or entities, including the individual, the technology and the service provider (Renegar et al. 2008, p. 9). Consequently, the outcomes of Renegar et al.’s study state that privacy does not obstruct the process of adoption but rather the latter must take into account the value proposition in addition to the amount of control granted.

Monitoring using LBS: control versus care? 1.2.10

The focus of the preceding sections has been on the loss of control, the dangers of pre-emptive control, covert monitoring, and user perspectives relating to the control dimension. However, this analysis should not be restricted to the negative implications arising from the use of LBS, but rather should incorporate both the control and care applications of LBS. For instance, while discussions of surveillance and the term in general typically invoke sinister images, numerous authors warn against assuming this subjective viewpoint. Surveillance should not be considered in itself as disagreeable. Rather, “[t]he problem has been the presumptiveness of its proponents, the lack of rational evaluation, and the exaggerations and excesses that have been permitted” (Clarke 2007a, p. 42). This viewpoint is reinforced in the work of Elliot and Phillips (2004, p. 474), and can also be applied to dataveillance.

The perspective that surveillance inevitability results in negative consequences such as individuals possessing excessive amounts of control over each other should be avoided. For instance, Lyon (2001, p. 2) speaks of the dual aspects of surveillance in that “[t]he same process, surveillance – watching over – both enables and constrains, involves care and control.”  Michael et al. (2006a) reinforce such ideas in the context of GPS tracking and monitoring. The authors claim that GPS tracking has been employed for control purposes in various situations, such as policing/law enforcement, the monitoring of parolees and sex offenders, the tracking of suspected terrorists and the monitoring of employees (Michael et al. 2006a, pp. 2-3). However, the authors argue that additional contexts such as convenience and care must not be ignored, as GPS solutions may potentially simplify or enable daily tasks (convenience) or be used for healthcare or protection of vulnerable groups (care) (Michael et al. 2006a, pp. 3-4). Perusco and Michael (2005) further note that the tracking of such vulnerable groups indicates that monitoring activities are no longer limited to those convicted of a particular offence, but rather can be employed for protection and safety purposes. Table 1 provides a summary of GPS tracking and monitoring applications in the control, convenience and care contexts, adapted from Michael et al. (2006a, pp. 2-4), identifying the potentially constructive uses of GPS tracking and monitoring.

Table 1: GPS monitoring applications in the control, convenience and care contexts, adapted from Michael et al. (2006a, pp. 2-4)

Table 1: GPS monitoring applications in the control, convenience and care contexts, adapted from Michael et al. (2006a, pp. 2-4)

It is crucial that in evaluating LBS control literature and establishing the need for LBS regulation, both the control and care perspectives are incorporated. The act of monitoring should not immediately conjure up sinister thoughts. The focus should preferably be directed to the important question of purpose or motives. Lyon (2007, p. 3) feels that purpose may exist anywhere on the broad spectrum between care and control. Therefore, as expressed by Elliot and Phillips (2004, p. 474), a crucial factor in evaluating the merit of surveillance activities and systems is determining “how they are used.” These sentiments are also applicable to dataveillance. It is helpful at this point to discuss alternative and related practices that may incorporate location information throughout the monitoring process.

Sousveillance 1.2.11

The term sousveillance, coined by Steve Mann, comes from the French terms sous which means from below, and veiller which means to watch (Mann et al. 2003, p. 332). It is primarily a form of “inverse surveillance” (Mann et al. 2003, p. 331), whereby an individual is in essence “surveilling the surveillers” (p. 332). Sousveillance is reliant on the use of wearable computing devices to capture audiovisual and sensory data (Mann 2005, p. 625). A major concern with respect to sousveillance, according to Mann (2005, p. 637), is the dissemination of the recorded data which for the purposes of this investigation, may include images of locations and corresponding geographic coordinates.

Sousveillance, ‘reflectionism’ and control 1.2.12

Relevant to the theme of control, it has been argued that sousveillance can be utilised as a form of resistance to unwarranted surveillance and control by institutions. According to Mann et al. (2003, p. 333), sousveillance is a type of reflectionism in which individuals can actively respond to bureaucratic monitoring and to an extent “neutralize surveillance”. Sousveillance can thus be employed in response to social control in that surveillance activities are reversed:

“The surveilled become sousveillers who engage social controllers (customs officials, shopkeepers, customer service personnel, security guards, etc.) by using devices that mirror those used by these social controllers” (Mann et al. 2003, p. 337).

Sousveillance differs from surveillance in that traditional surveillance activities are “centralised” and “localized.” It is dispersed in nature and “delocalized” in its global coverage (Ganascia 2010, p. 496). As such, sousveillance requires new metaphors for understanding its fundamental aspects. A useful metaphor proposed by Ganascia (2010, p. 496) for describing sousveillance is the canopticon, which can be contrasted to the panopticon metaphor. At the heart of the canopticon are the following principles:

“total transparency of society, fundamental equality, which gives everybody the ability to watch – and consequently to control – everybody else, [and] total communication, which enables everyone to exchange with everyone else” (Ganascia 2010, p. 497).

This exchange may include the dissemination of location details, thus signalling the need to incorporate sousveillance into LBS regulatory discussions. A noteworthy element of sousveillance is that it shifts the ability to control from the state/institution (surveillance) to the individual. While this can initially be perceived as an empowering feature, excessive amounts of control, if unchecked, may prove detrimental. That is, control may be granted to individuals to disseminate their location (and other) information, or the information of others, without the necessary precautions in place and in an unguarded fashion. The implications of this exercise are sinister in their extreme forms. When considered within the context of IoT, sousveillance ideals are likely compromised. Yes, I can fight back against state control and big brother with sousveillance but in doing so I unleash potentially a thousand or more little brothers, each with their capacity to (mis)use the information being gathered.

Towards überveillance 1.2.13

The concepts of surveillance, dataveillance and sousveillance have been examined with respect to their association with location services in an IoT world. It is therefore valuable, at this point, to introduce the related notion of überveillance. Überveillance, a term coined by M.G. Michael in 2006, can be described as “an omnipresent electronic surveillance facilitated by technology that makes it possible to embed surveillance devices in the human body” (Michael et al. 2006b; Macquarie Dictionary 2009, p. 1094). Überveillance combines the dimensions of identification, location and time, potentially allowing for forecasting and uninterrupted real-time monitoring (Michael and Michael 2007, pp. 9-10), and in its extreme forms can be regarded as “Big Brother on the inside looking out” (p. 10).

Überveillance is considered by several authors to be the contemporary notion that will supplant surveillance. For instance, Clarke (2007a, p. 27) suggests that the concept of surveillance is somewhat outdated and that contemporary discussions be focussed on the notion of überveillance. It has further been suggested that überveillance is built on the existing notion of dataveillance. That is, “[ü]berveillance takes that which was static or discrete in the dataveillance world, and makes it constant and embedded” (Michael and Michael 2007, p. 10). The move towards überveillance thus marks the evolution from physical, visual forms of monitoring (surveillance), through to the increasingly sophisticated and ubiquitous embedded chips (überveillance) (Michael & Michael 2010; Gagnon et al. 2013). Albrecht and McIntyre (2005) describe these embedded chips as “spychips” and were focused predominantly on RFID tracking of people through retail goods and services. They spend considerable space describing the Internet of Things concept. Perakslis and Wolk (2006) studied the social acceptance of RFID implants as a security method and Perakslis later went on to incorporate überveillance into her research into behavioural motivators and personality factors toward adoption of humancentric IoT applications.

Given that überveillance is an emerging term (Michael and Michael 2007, p. 9), diverse interpretations have been proposed. For example, Clarke (2007a) offers varying definitions of the term, suggesting that überveillance can be understood as any of the following: omni-surveillance, an apocalyptic notion that “applies across all space and all time (omnipresent), and supports some organisation that is all-seeing and even all-knowing (omniscient)”, which can be achieved through the use of embedded chips for instance (p. 33); exaggerated surveillance, referring to “the extent to which surveillance is undertaken... its justification is exaggerated” (p. 34) ; and/or meta-, supra-, or master-surveillance, which “could involve the consolidation of multiple surveillance threads in order to develop what would be envisaged by its proponents to be superior information” (p. 38). Shay et al. (2012) acknowledge:

“The pervasive nature of sensors coupled with recent advances in data mining, networking, and storage technologies creates tools and data that, while serving the public good, also create a ubiquitous surveillance infrastructure ripe for misuse. Roger Clarke’s concept of dataveillance and M.G. Michael and Katina Michael’s more recent uberveillance serve as important milestones in awareness of the growing threat of our instrumented world.”

All of these definitions indicate direct ways in which IoT applications can also be rolled-out whether it is for use of vehicle management in heavy traffic conditions, the tracking of suspects in a criminal investigation or even employees in a workplace. Disturbing is the manner in which a whole host of applications, particularly in tollways and public transportation, are being used for legal purposes without the knowledge of the driver and commuter. “Tapping” token cards is not only encouraged but mandatory at most metropolitan train stations of developed countries. Little do commuters know that the data gathered by these systems can be requested by a host of government agencies without a warrant.

Implications of überveillance on control 1.2.14

Irrespective of interpretation, the subject of current scholarly debate relates to the implications of überveillance on individuals in particular, and society in general. In an article discussing the evolution of automatic identification (auto-ID) techniques, Michael and Michael (2005) present an account of the issues associated with implantable technologies in humancentric applications. The authors note the evident trend of deploying a technology into the marketplace, prior to assessing the potential consequences (Michael and Michael 2005, pp. 22-33). This reactive approach causes apprehension in view of chip implants in particular, given the inexorable nature of embedded chips, and the fact that once the chip is accepted by the body, it is impossible to remove without an invasive surgical procedure, as summarised in the following excerpt:

“[U]nless the implant is removed within a short time, the body will adopt the foreign object and tie it to tissue. At this moment, there will be no exit strategy, no contingency plan, it will be a life enslaved to upgrades, virus protection mechanisms, and inescapable intrusion” (Michael and Michael 2007, p. 18).

Other concerns relevant to this investigation have also been raised. It is indicated that “über-intrusive technologies” are likely to leave substantial impressions on individuals, families and other social relations, with the added potential of affecting psychological well-being (Michael and Michael 2007, p. 17). Apart from implications for individuals, concerns also emerge at the broader social level that require remedies. For instance, if a state of überveillance is to be avoided, caution must be exercised in deploying technologies without due reflection of the corresponding implications. Namely, this will involve the introduction of appropriate regulatory measures, which will encompass proactive consideration of the social implications of emerging technologies and individuals assuming responsibility for promoting regulatory measures (Michael and Michael 2007, p. 20). It will also require a measured attempt to achieve some form of “balance” (Clarke 2007a, p. 43). The implications of überveillance are of particular relevance to LBS regulatory discussions, given that “overarching location tracking and monitoring is leading toward a state of überveillance” (Michael and Michael 2011, p. 2). As such, research into LBS regulation in Australia must be sensitive to both the significance of LBS to überveillance and the anticipated trajectory of the latter.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for IoT-specific regulation. IoT is a fluid concept, and in many ways IoT is nebulous. It is made up of a host of technologies that are being integrated and are converging together over time. It is layers upon layers of infrastructure which have emerged since the inception of the first telephone lines to the cloud and wireless Internet today. IoT requires new protocols and new applications but it is difficult to point to a specific technology or application or system that can be subject to some form of external oversight. Herein lie the problems of potential unauthorised disclosure of data, or even misuse of data when government agencies require private enterprise to act upon their requests, or private enterprises work together in sophisticated ways to exploit the consumer.

Comparing the different forms of ‘veillance’ 1.2.15

Various terms ending in ‘veillance’ have been introduced throughout this paper, all of which imply and encompass the process of monitoring. Prior to delving into the dangers of this activity and the significance of LBS monitoring on control, it is helpful to compare the main features of each term. A comparison of surveillance, dataveillance, sousveillance, and überveillance is provided in Table 2.

It should be noted that with the increased use of techniques such as surveillance, dataveillance, sousveillance and überveillance, the threat of becoming a surveillance society looms. According to Ganascia (2010p. 491), a surveillance society is one in which the data gathered from the aforementioned techniques is utilised to exert power and control over others. This results in dangers such as the potential for identification and profiling of individuals (Clarke 1997), the latter of which can be associated with social sorting (Gandy 1993).

Table 2: Comparison of the different forms of ‘veillance’

Identification 1.2.16

Identity and identification are ambiguous terms with philosophical and psychological connotations (Kodl and Lokay 2001, p. 129). Identity can be perceived as “a particular presentation of an entity, such as a role that the entity plays in particular circumstances” (Clarke and Wigan 2011). With respect to information systems, human identification specifically (as opposed to object identification) is therefore “the association of data with a particular human being” (Kodl and Lokay 2001, pp. 129-130). Kodl and Lokay (2001, pp. 131-135) claim that numerous methods exist to identify individuals prior to performing a data linkage, namely, using appearance, social interactions/behaviours, names, codes and knowledge, amongst other techniques. With respect to LBS, these identifiers significantly contribute to the dangers pertaining to surveillance, dataveillance, souseveillance and überveillance. That is, LBS can be deployed to simplify and facilitate the process of tracking and be used for the collection of profile data that can potentially be linked to an entity using a given identification scheme. In a sense, LBS in their own right become an additional form of identification feeding the IoT scheme (Michael and Michael, 2013).

Thus, in order to address the regulatory concerns pertaining to LBS, it is crucial to appreciate the challenges regarding the identification of individuals. Of particularly importance is recognition that once an individual has been identified, they can be subjected to varying degrees of control. As such, in any scheme that enables identification, Kodl and Lokay (2001, p. 136) note the need to balance human rights with other competing interests, particularly given that identification systems may be exploited by powerful entities for control purposes, such as by governments to exercise social control. For an historical account of identification techniques, from manual methods through to automatic identification systems including those built on LBS see Michael and Michael (2009, pp. 43-60). It has also been suggested that civil libertarians and concerned individuals assert that automatic identification (auto-ID) technology “impinges on human rights, the right to privacy, and that eventually it will lead to totalitarian control of the populace that have been put forward since at least the 1970s” (Michael and Michael 2009, p. 364). These views are also pertinent to the notion of social sorting.

Social sorting 1.2.17

In relation to the theme of control, information derived from surveillance, dataveillance, sousveillance and überveillance techniques can also serve the purpose of social sorting, labelled by Oscar Gandy (1993, p. 1) as the “panoptic sort.” Relevant to this discussion, the information may relate to an individual’s location. In Gandy’s influential work The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy of Personal Information, the author relies on the work of Michel Foucault and other critical theorists (refer to pp. 3-13) in examining the panoptic sort as an “antidemocratic system of control” (Gandy 1993, p. 227). According to Gandy, in this system, individuals are exposed to prejudiced forms of categorisation based on both economic and political factors (pp. 1-2). Lyon (1998, p. 94) describes the database management practices associated with social sorting, classing them a form of consumer surveillance, in which customers are grouped by “social type and location.” Such clustering forms the basis for the exclusion and marginalisation of individuals (King 2001, pp. 47-49). As a result, social sorting is presently used for profiling of individuals and in the market research realm (Bennett and Regan 2004, p. 452).

Profiling 1.2.18

Profiling “is a technique whereby a set of characteristics of a particular class of person is inferred from past experience, and data-holdings are then searched for individuals with a close fit to that set of characteristics” (Clarke 1993). The process is centred on the creation of a profile or model related to a specific individual, based on data aggregation processes (Casal 2004, p. 108). Assorted terms have been employed in labelling this profile. For instance, the model created of an individual using the data collected through dataveillance techniques has been referred to by Clarke (1997) as “the digital persona”, and is related to the “digital dossiers” idea introduced by Solove (2004, pp. 1-7). According to Clarke (1994), the use of networked systems, namely the internet, involves communicating and exposing data and certain aspects of, at times, recognisable behaviour, both of which are utilised in the creation of a personality.

Digital personas and dossiers 1.2.19

The resulting personality is referred to as the digital persona. Similarly, digital dossiers refer to the compilation of comprehensive electronic data related to an individual, utilised in the creation of the “digital person” (Solove 2004, p. 1), also referred to as “digital biographies” (Solove 2002, p. 1086). Digital biographies are further discussed by Solove (2002). In examining the need for LBS regulation throughout the globe, a given regulatory response or framework must appreciate the ease with which (past, present and future) location information can be compiled and integrated into an individual’s digital persona or dossier. Once such information is reproduced and disseminated the control implications are magnified.

With respect to the theme of control, an individual can exercise a limited amount of influence over their digital persona, as some aspects of creating an electronic personality may not be within their direct control. The scope of this article does not allow for reflection on the digital persona in great detail; however, Clarke (1994) offers a thorough investigation of the term, and associated notions such as the passive and active digital persona, in addition to the significance of the digital person to dataveillance techniques such as computer matching and profiling. However, significant to this research is the distinction between the physical and the digital persona and the resultant implications in relation to control, as summarised in the following extract:

“The physical persona is progressively being replaced by the digital persona as the basis for social control by governments, and for consumer marketing by corporations. Even from the strictly social control and business efficiency perspectives, substantial flaws exist in this approach. In addition, major risks to individuals and society arise” (Clarke 1994).

The same sentiments apply with respect to digital dossiers. In particular, Solove (2004, p. 2) notes that individuals are unaware of the ways in which their electronic data is exploited by government and commercial entities, and “lack the power to do much about it.” It is evident that profile data is advantageous for both social control and commercial purposes (Clarke 2001d, p. 12), the latter of which is associated with market research and sorting activities, which have evolved from ideas of “containment” of mobile consumer demand to the “control” model (Arvidsson 2004, pp. 456, 458-467). The control model in particular has been strengthened, but not solely driven, by emerging technologies including LBS, as explained:

“The control paradigm thus permits a tighter and more efficient surveillance that makes use of consumer mobility rather than discarding it as complexity. This ability to follow the consumer around has been greatly strengthened by new technologies: software for data mining, barcode scans, internet tracking devices, and lately location based information from mobile phones” (Arvidsson 2004, p. 467).

Social sorting, particularly for profiling and market research purposes, thus introduces numerous concerns relating to the theme of control, one of which is the ensuing consequences relating to personal privacy. This specifically includes the privacy of location information. In sum, examining the current regulatory framework for LBS in Australia, and determining the need for LBS regulation, necessitates an appreciation of the threats associated with social sorting using information derived from LBS solutions. Additionally, the benefits and risks associated with surveillance, dataveillance, sousveillance and überveillance for control must be measured and carefully contemplated in the proposed regulatory response.

Trust 1.3

Trust is a significant theme relating to LBS, given the importance of the notion to: (a) “human existence” (Perusco et al. 2006, p. 93; Perusco and Michael 2007, p. 10), (b) relationships (Lewis and Weigert 1985, pp. 968-969), (c) intimacy and rapport within a domestic relationship (Boesen et al. 2010, p. 65), and (d) LBS success and adoption (Jorns and Quirchmayr 2010, p. 152). Trust can be defined, in general terms, as the “firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something” (Oxford Dictionary 2012b). A definition of trust that has been widely cited in relevant literature is “the willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectation that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other party” (Mayer et al. 1995, p. 712). Related to electronic relationships or transactions, the concept has been defined as the “confident reliance by one party on the behaviour of other parties” (Clarke 2001c, p. 291), and it has been suggested that in the electronic-commerce domain, in particular, trust is intimately associated with the disclosure of information (Metzger 2004).

In reviewing literature concerning trust, Fusco et al. (2011, p. 2) claim that trust is typically described as a dynamic concept falling into the categories of cognitive (evidence based), emotional (faith-based), and/or behavioural (conduct-based) trust. For further reading, the major sources on trust can be found in: Lewis and Weigert's (1985) sociological treatment of trust, the influential work of Mayer et al. (1995) and the authors’ updated work Schoorman et al. (2007) centred on organisational trust, Weckert’s (2000) comprehensive review of trust in the context of workplace monitoring using electronic devices, research on trust in electronic-commerce (refer to McKnight and Chervany 2001; Pavlou 2003; Kim et al. 2009) and mobile-commerce (see Siau and Shen 2003; Yeh and Li 2009), the work of Valachich (2003) that introduces and evaluates trust in terms of ubiquitous computing environments, Dwyer et al.’s (2007) article on trust and privacy issues in social networks, Yan and Holtmanns’ (2008) examination of issues associated with digital trust management, the work of Chen et al. (2008) covering the benefits and concerns of LBS usage including privacy and trust implications, and the research by Junglas and Spitzmüller (2005) that examines privacy and trust issues concerning LBS by presenting a research model that incorporates these aspects amongst others.

For the purpose of this paper, the varying definitions and categorisations are acknowledged. However, trust will be assessed in terms of the relationships dominating existing LBS/IoT scholarship which comprise the government-citizen relationship centred on trust in the state, the business-consumer relationship associated with trust in corporations/LBS providers, and the consumer-consumer relationship concerned with trust in individuals/others.

Trust in the state 1.3.1

Trust in the state broadly covers LBS solutions implemented by government, thus representing the government-citizen relationship. Dominating current debates and literature are LBS government initiatives in the form of emergency management schemes, in conjunction with national security applications utilising LBS, which depending on the nature of their implementation may impact on citizens’ trust in the state. These concerns are typically expressed as a trade-off between security and safety. At present there are very few examples of fully-fledged IoT systems to point to, although increasingly quasi-IoT systems are being deployed using wireless sensor networks of varying kinds, e.g. for bushfire management and for fisheries. These systems do not include a direct human stakeholder but are still relevant as they may trigger flow-on effects that do impact citizenry.

Balancing trust and privacy in emergency services 1.3.2

In the context of emergency management, Aloudat and Michael (2011, p. 58) maintain that the dominant theme between government and consumers in relation to emergency warning messages and systems is trust. This includes trust in the LBS services being delivered and in the government itself (Aloudat and Michael 2011, p. 71). While privacy is typically believed to be the leading issue confronting LBS, in emergency and life-threatening situations it is overwhelmed by trust-related challenges, given that users are generally willing to relinquish their privacy in the interest of survival (Aloudat and Michael 2010, p. 2). Furthermore, the success of these services is reliant on trust in the technology, the service, and the accuracy/reliability/timeliness of the emergency alert. On the whole, this success can be measured in terms of citizens’ confidence in their government’s ability to sensibly select and implement a fitting emergency service utilising enhanced LBS features. In a paper that examines the deployment of location services in Dutch public administration, van Ooijen and Nouwt (2009, p. 81) assess the impact of government-based LBS initiatives on the government-citizen relationship, recommending that governments employ care in gathering and utilising location-based data about the public, to ensure that citizens' trust in the state is not compromised.

Trust-related implications of surveillance in the interest of national security 1.3.3

Trust is also prevalent in discussions relating to national security. National security has been regarded a priority area for many countries for over a decade, and as such has prompted the implementation of surveillance schemes by government. Wigan and Clarke (2006, p. 392) discuss the dimension of trust as a significant theme contributing to the social acceptance of a particular government surveillance initiative, which may incorporate location and tracking of individuals and objects. The implementation of surveillance systems by the state, including those incorporating LBS, can diminish the public’s confidence in the state given the potential for such mechanisms to be perceived as a form of authoritarian control. Nevertheless, a situation where national security and safety are considered to be in jeopardy may entail (partial) acceptance of various surveillance initiatives that would otherwise be perceived objectionable. In such circumstances, trust in government plays a crucial role in determining individuals’ willingness to compromise various civil liberties. This is explained by Davis and Silver (2004, p. 35) below:

“The more people trust the federal government or law enforcement agencies, the more willing they are to allow the government leeway in fighting the domestic war on terrorism by conceding some civil liberties.”

However, in due course it is expected that such increased security measures (even if initially supported by citizens) will yield a growing gap between government and citizens, “potentially dampening citizen participation in government and with it reducing citizens’ trust in public institutions and officials” (Gould 2002, p. 77). This is so as the degree of threat and trust in government is diminishing, thus resulting in the public’s reluctance to surrender their rights for the sake of security (Sanquist et al. 2008, p. 1126). In order to build and maintain trust, governments are required to be actively engaged in developing strategies to build confidence in both their abilities and of the technology under consideration, and are challenged to recognise “the massive harm that surveillance measures are doing to public confidence in its institutions” (Wigan and Clarke 2006, p. 401). It has been suggested that a privacy impact assessment (PIA) aids in establishing trust between government and citizens (Clarke 2009, p. 129). Carefully considered legislation is an alternative technique to enhance levels of trust. With respect to LBS, governments are responsible for proposing and enacting regulation that is in the best interest of citizens, incorporating citizen concerns into this process and encouraging suitable design of LBS applications, as explained in the following quotation:

“...new laws and regulations must be drafted always on the basis of citizens’ trust in government authorities. This means that citizens trust the government to consider the issues at stake according to the needs and wishes of its citizens. Location aware services can influence citizens’ trust in the democratic society. Poorly designed infrastructures and services for storing, processing and distributing location-based data can give rise to a strong feeling of being threatened. Whereas a good design expands the feeling of freedom and safety, both in the private and in the public sphere/domain” (Beinat et al. 2007, p. 46).

One of the biggest difficulties that will face stakeholders is identifying when current LBS systems become a part of bigger IoT initiatives. Major changes in systems will require a re-evaluation of impact assessments of different types.

Need for justification and cultural sensitivity 1.3.4

Techniques of this nature will fail to be espoused, however, if surveillance schemes lack adequate substantiation at the outset, as trust is threatened by “absence of justification for surveillance, and of controls over abuses” (Wigan and Clarke 2006, p. 389). From a government perspective, this situation may prove detrimental, as Wigan and Clarke (2006, p. 401) claim that transparency and trust are prerequisites for ensuring public confidence in the state, noting that “[t]he integrity of surveillance schemes, in transport and elsewhere, is highly fragile.” Aside from adequate justification of surveillance schemes, cultural differences associated with the given context need to be acknowledged as factors influencing the level of trust citizens hold in government. As explained by Dinev et al. (2005, p. 3) in their cross-cultural study of American and Italian Internet users' privacy and surveillance concerns, “[a]ttitudes toward government and government initiatives are related to the culture’s propensity to trust.” In comparing the two contexts, Dinev et al. claim that Americans readily accept government surveillance to provide increased levels of security, whereas Italians’ low levels of trust in government results in opposing viewpoints (pp. 9-10).

Trust in corporations/LBS/IoT providers 1.3.5

Trust in corporations/LBS/IoT providers emerges from the level of confidence a user places in an organisation and their respective location-based solution(s), which may be correlated to the business-consumer relationship. In the context of consumer privacy, Culnan and Bies (2003, p. 327) assert that perceived trust in an organisation is closely linked to the extent to which an organisation's practices are aligned with its policies. A breach in this trust affects the likelihood of personal information disclosure in the future (Culnan and Bies 2003, p. 328), given the value of trust in sustaining lasting customer relationships (p. 337). Reducing this “trust gap” (Culnan and Bies 2003, pp. 336-337) is a defining element for organisations in achieving economic and industry success, as it may impact on a consumer’s decision to contemplate location data usage (Chen et al. 2008, p. 34). Reducing this gap requires that control over location details remain with the user, as opposed to the LBS provider or network operator (Giaglis et al. 2003, p. 82). Trust can thus emerge from a user’s perception that they are in command (Junglas and Spitzmüller 2005, p. 3). 

Küpper and Treu (2010, pp. 216-217) concur with these assertions, explaining that the lack of uptake of first-generation LBS applications was chiefly a consequence of the dominant role of the network operator over location information. This situation has been somewhat rectified since the introduction of GPS-enabled devices capable of determining location information without input from the network operator and higher emphasis on a user-focussed model (Bellavista et al. 2008, p. 85; Küpper and Treu 2010, p. 217). Trust, however, is not exclusively concerned with a network operator’s ability to determine location information, but also with the possible misuse of location data. As such, it has also been framed as a potential resolution to location data misappropriation, explained further by Jorns and Quirchmayr (2010, p. 152) in the following excerpt:

“The only way to completely avoid misuse is to entirely block location information, that is, to reject such services at all. Since this is not an adequate option... trust is the key to the realization of mobile applications that exchange sensitive information.”

There is much to learn from the covert and overt location tracking of large corporation on their subscribers. Increasingly, the dubious practices of retaining location information by information and communication technology giants Google, Apple and Microsoft are being reported and only small commensurate penalties being applied in countries in the European Union and Asia. Disturbing in this trend is that even smaller suppliers of location-based applications are beginning to unleash unethical (but seemingly not illegal) solutions at shopping malls and other campus-based locales (Michael & Clarke 2013).

Importance of identity and privacy protection to trust 1.3.6

In delivering trusted LBS solutions, Jorns and Quirchmayr (2010, pp. 151-155) further claim that identity and privacy protection are central considerations that must be built into a given solution, proposing an LBS architecture that integrates such safeguards. That is, identity protection may involve the use of false dummies, dummy users and landmark objects, while privacy protection generally relies on decreasing the resolution of location data, employing supportive regulatory techniques and ensuring anonymity and pseudonymity (Jorns and Quirchmayr 2010, p. 152). Similarly, and with respect to online privacy, Clarke (2001c, p. 297) suggests that an adequate framework must be introduced that “features strong and comprehensive privacy laws, and systematic enforcement of those laws.” These comments, also applicable to LBS in a specific sense, were made in the context of economic rather than social relationships, referring primarily to government and corporations, but are also relevant to trust amongst social relations.

It is important to recognise that issues of trust are closely related to privacy concerns from the perspective of users. In an article titled, “Trust and Transparency in Location-Based Services: Making Users Lose their Fear of Big Brother”, Böhm et al. (2004, pp. 1-3) claim that operators and service providers are charged with the difficult task of earning consumer trust and that this may be achieved by addressing user privacy concerns and adhering to relevant legislation. Additional studies also point to the relationship between trust and privacy, claiming that trust can aid in reducing the perceived privacy risk for users. For example, Xu et al. (2005) suggest that enhancing trust can reduce the perceived privacy risk. This influences a user's decision to disclose information, and that “service provider’s interventions including joining third party privacy seal programs and introducing device-based privacy enhancing features could increase consumers’ trust beliefs and mitigate their privacy risk perceptions” (Xu et al. 2005, p. 905). Chellappa and Sin (2005, pp. 188-189), in examining the link between trust and privacy, express the importance of trust building, which include consumer’s familiarity and previous experience with the organisation.

Maintaining consumer trust 1.3.7

The primary consideration in relation to trust in the business-consumer relationship is that all efforts be targeted at establishing and building trust in corporations and LBS/IoT providers. Once trust has been compromised, the situation cannot be repaired which is a point applicable to trust in any context. This point is explained by Kaasinen (2003, p. 77) in an interview-based study regarding user requirements in location-aware mobile applications:

“The faith that the users have in the technology, the service providers and the policy-makers should be regarded highly. Any abuse of personal data can betray that trust and it will be hard to win it back again.”

Trust in individuals/others 1.3.8

Trust in the consumer-to-consumer setting is determined by the level of confidence existing between an individual and their social relations, which may include friends, parents, other family members, employers and strangers, categories that are adapted from Levin et al. (2008, pp. 81-82). Yan and Holtmanns (2008, p. 2) express the importance of trust for social interactions, claiming that “[s]ocial trust is the product of past experiences and perceived trustworthiness.” It has been suggested that LBS monitoring can erode trust between the individual engaged in monitoring and the subject being monitored, as the very act implies that trust is lacking in a given relationship (Perusco et al. 2006, p. 93). These concerns are echoed in Michael et al. (2008). Previous studies relevant to LBS and trust generally focus on: the workplace situation, that is, trust between an employer and their employee; trust amongst ‘friends’ subscribed to a location-based social networking (LBSN) service which may include any of the predefined categories above; in addition to studies relating to the tracking of family members, such as children for instance, for safety and protection purposes and the relative trust implications.

Consequences of workplace monitoring 1.3.9

With respect to trust in an employer’s use of location-based applications and location data, a prevailing subject in existing literature is the impact of employee monitoring systems on staff. For example, in studying the link between electronic workplace monitoring and trust, Weckert (2000, p. 248) reported that trust is a significant issue resulting from excessive monitoring, in that monitoring may contribute to deterioration in professional work relationships between an employer and their employee and consequently reduce or eliminate trust. Weckert’s work reveals that employers often substantiate electronic monitoring based on the argument that the “benefits outweigh any loss of trust”, and may include gains for the involved parties; notably, for the employer in the form of economic benefits, for the employee to encourage improvements to performance and productivity, and for the customer who may experience enhanced customer service (p. 249). Chen and Ross (2005, p. 250), on the other hand, argue that an employer’s decision to monitor their subordinates may be related to a low degree of existing trust, which could be a result of unsuitable past behaviour on the part of the employee. As such, employers may perceive monitoring as necessary in order to manage employees. Alternatively, from the perspective of employees, trust-related issues materialise as a result of monitoring, which may leave an impression on job attitudes, including satisfaction and dedication, as covered in a paper by Alder et al. (2006) in the context of internet monitoring.

When applied to location monitoring of employees using LBS, the trust-related concerns expressed above are indeed warranted. Particularly, Kaupins and Minch (2005, p. 2) argue that the appropriateness of location monitoring in the workplace can be measured from either a legal or ethical perspective, which inevitably results in policy implications for the employer. The authors emphasise that location monitoring of employees can often be justified in terms of the security, productivity, reputational and protective capabilities of LBS (Kaupins and Minch 2005, p. 5). However, Kaupins and Minch (2005, pp. 5-6) continue to describe the ethical factors “limiting” location monitoring in the workplace, which entail the need for maintaining employee privacy and the restrictions associated with inaccurate information, amongst others. These factors will undoubtedly affect the degree of trust between an employer and employee.

However, the underlying concern relevant to this discussion of location monitoring in the workplace is not only the suitability of employee monitoring using LBS. While this is a valid issue, the challenge remains centred on the deeper trust-related consequences. Regardless of the technology or applications used to monitor employees, it can be concluded that a work atmosphere lacking trust results in sweeping consequences that extend beyond the workplace, expressed in the following excerpt:

“A low trust workplace environment will create the need for ever increasing amounts of monitoring which in turn will erode trust further. There is also the worry that this lack of trust may become more widespread. If there is no climate of trust at work, where most of us spend a great deal of our life, why should there be in other contexts? Some monitoring in some situations is justified, but it must be restricted by the need for trust” (Weckert 2000, p. 250).

Location-monitoring amongst friends 1.3.10

Therefore, these concerns are certainly applicable to the use of LBS applications amongst other social relations. Recent literature merging the concepts of LBS, online social networking and trust are particularly focused on the use of LBSN applications amongst various categories of friends. For example, Fusco et al.'s (2010) qualitative study examines the impact of LBSN on trust amongst friends, employing a focus group methodology in achieving this aim. The authors 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 (Fusco et al. 2010, p. 7). Further information relating to Fusco et al.’s study, particularly the manner in which LBSN applications adversely impact on trust can be found in a follow-up article (Fusco et al. 2011).

Location tracking for protection 1.3.11

It has often been suggested that monitoring in familial relations can offer a justified means of protection, particularly in relation to vulnerable individuals such as Alzheimer’s or dementia sufferers and in children. With specific reference to the latter, trust emerges as a central theme relating to child tracking. In an article by Boesen et al. (2010) location tracking in families is evaluated, including the manner in which LBS applications are incorporated within the familial context. The qualitative study conducted by the authors revealed that the initial decision to use LBS by participants with children was a lack of existing trust within the given relationship, with participants reporting an improvement in their children's behaviour after a period of tracking (Boesen et al. 2010, p. 70). Boesen et al., however, warn of the trust-related consequences, claiming that “daily socially-based trusting interactions are potentially replaced by technologically mediated interactions” (p. 73). Lack of trust in a child is considered to be detrimental to their growth. The act of nurturing a child is believed to be untrustworthy through the use of technology, specifically location monitoring applications, may result in long-term implications. The importance of trust to the growth of a child and the dangers associated with ubiquitous forms of supervision are explained in the following excerpt:

“Trust (or at least its gradual extension as the child grows) is seen as fundamental to emerging self-control and healthy development... Lack of private spaces (whether physical, personal or social) for children amidst omni-present parental oversight may also create an inhibiting dependence and fear” (Marx and Steeves 2010, p. 218).

Furthermore, location tracking of children and other individuals in the name of protection may result in undesirable and contradictory consequences relevant to trust. Barreras and Mathur (2007, p. 182), in an article that describes the advantages and disadvantages of wireless location tracking, argue that technologies originally intended to protect family members (notably children, and other social relations such as friends and employees), can impact on trust and be regarded as “unnecessary surveillance.” The outcome of such tracking and reduced levels of trust may also result in a “counterproductive” effect if the tracking capabilities are deactivated by individuals, rendering them incapable of seeking assistance in actual emergency situations (Barreras and Mathur 2007, p. 182).

LBS/IoT is a ‘double-edged sword’ 1.3.12

In summary, location monitoring and tracking by the state, corporations and individuals is often justified in terms of the benefits that can be delivered to the party responsible for monitoring/tracking and the subject being tracked. As such, Junglas and Spitzmüller (2005, p. 7) claim that location-based services can be considered a “double-edged sword” in that they can aid in the performance of tasks in one instance, but may also generate Big Brother concerns. Furthermore, Perusco and Michael (2007, p. 10) mention the linkage between trust and freedom. As a result, Perusco et al. (2006, p. 97) suggest a number of questions that must be considered in the context of LBS and trust: “Does the LBS context already involve a low level of trust?”; “If the LBS context involves a moderate to high level of trust, why are LBS being considered anyway?”; and “Will the use of LBS in this situation be trust-building or trust-destroying?” In answering these questions, the implications of LBS/IoT monitoring on trust must be appreciated, given they are significant, irreparable, and closely tied to what is considered the central challenge in the LBS domain, privacy.

This paper has provided comprehensive coverage of the themes of control and trust with respect to the social implications of LBS. The subsequent discussion will extend the examination to cover LBS in the context of the IoT, providing an ethical analysis and stressing the importance of a robust socio-ethical framework.

Discussion 1.4

The Internet of Things (IoT) and LBS: extending the discussion on control and trust 1.4.1

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an encompassing network of connected intelligent “things”, and is “comprised of smart machines interacting and communicating with other machines, objects, environments and infrastructures” (Freescale Semiconductor Inc. and ARM Inc. 2014, p. 1). The phrase was originally coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, and a definite definition is yet to be agreed upon (Ashton 2009, p. 1; Kranenburg and Bassi 2012, p. 1). Various forms of IoT are often used interchangeably, such as the Internet of Everything, the Internet of Things and People, the Web of Things and People etc. The IoT can, however, be described in terms of its core characteristics and/or the features it encompasses. At the crux of the IoT concept is the integration of the physical and virtual worlds, and the capability for “things” within these realms to be operated remotely through the employment of intelligent or smart objects with embedded processing functionality (Mattern and Floerkemeier 2010, p. 242; Ethics Subgroup IoT 2013, p. 3). These smart objects are capable of storing historical and varied forms of data, used as the basis for future interactions and the establishment of preferences. That is, once the data is processed, it can be utilized to “command and control” things within the IoT ecosystem, ideally resulting in enhancing the everyday lives of individual (Michael, K. et al., 2010).

According to Ashton (2009, p. 1), the IoT infrastructure should “empower computers” and exhibit less reliance on human involvement in the collection of information. It should also allow for “seamless” interactions and connections (Ethics Subgroup IoT 2013, p. 2). Potential use cases include personal/home applications, health/patient monitoring systems, and remote tracking and monitoring which may include applications such as asset tracking amongst others (Ethics Subgroup IoT 2013, p. 3).

As can be anticipated with an ecosystem of this scale, the nature of interactions with the physical/virtual worlds and the varied “things” within, will undoubtedly be affected and dramatically alter the state of play. In the context of this paper, the focus is ultimately on the ethical concerns emerging from the use of LBS within the IoT infrastructure that is characterized by its ubiquitous/pervasive nature, in view of the discussion above regarding control and trust. It is valuable at this point to identify the important role of LBS in the IoT infrastructure.

While the IoT can potentially encompass a myriad of devices, the mobile phone will likely feature as a key element within the ecosystem, providing connectivity between devices (Freescale Semiconductor Inc. and ARM Inc. 2014, p. 2). In essence, smart phones can therefore be perceived as the “mediator” between users, the internet and additional “things”, as is illustrated in Mattern and Floerkemeier (2010, p. 245, see figure 2). Significantly, most mobile devices are equipped with location and spatial capabilities, providing “localization”, whereby intelligent devices “are aware of their physical location, or can be located” (Mattern and Floerkemeier 2010, p. 244). An example of an LBS application in the IoT would be indoor navigation capabilities in the absence of GPS; or in affect seamless navigation between the outdoor and indoor environments.

Control- and trust-related challenges in the IoT 1.4.2

It may be argued that the LBS control and trust implications discussed throughout this paper (in addition to ethical challenges such as privacy and security) will matriculate into the IoT environment. However, it has also been suggested that “the IoT will essentially create much richer environments in which location-based and location-aware technology can function” (Blouin 2014), and in doing so the ethical challenges will be amplified. It has further been noted that ethical issues, including trust and control amongst others, will “gain a new dimension in light of the increased complexity” in the IoT environment (Ethics Subgroup IoT 2013, p. 2).

In relation to control and the previously identified surveillance metaphors, for instance, it is predicted that there will be less reliance on Orwell's notion of Big Brother whereby surveillance is conducted by a single entity. Rather the concept of "some brother" will emerge. Some brother can be defined as "a heterogeneous 'mass' consisting of innumerable social actors, e.g. public sector authorities, citizens' movements and NGOs, economic players, big corporations, SMEs and citizens" (Ethics Subgroup IoT 2013, p. 16). As can be anticipated, the ethical consequences and dangers can potentially multiply in such a scenario.

Following on from this idea, is that of lack of transparency. The IoT will inevitably result in the merging of both the virtual and physical worlds, in addition to public and private spaces. It has been suggested that lack of transparency regarding information access will create a sense of discomfort and will accordingly result in diminishing levels of trust (Ethics Subgroup IoT 2013, p. 8). The trust-related issues (relevant to LBS) are likely to be consistent with those discussed throughout this paper, possibly varying in intensity/severity depending on a given scenario. For example, the consequences of faulty IoT technology have the potential to be greater than those in conventional Internet services given the integration of the physical and virtual worlds, thereby impact on users’ trust in the IoT (Ethics Subgroup IoT 2013, p. 11). Therefore, trust considerations must primarily be examined in terms of: (a) trust in technology, and (b) trust in individuals/others.

Dealing with these (and other) challenges requires an ethical analysis in which appropriate conceptual and practical frameworks are considered. A preliminary examination is provided in the subsequent section, followed by dialogue regarding the need for objectivity in socio-ethical studies and the associated difficulties in achieving this.

Ethical analysis: proposing a socio-ethical conceptual framework 1.4.3

Research into the social and ethical implications of LBS, emerging technologies in general, and the IoT can be categorized in many ways and many frameworks can be applied. For instance, it may be regarded as a strand of “cyberethics”, defined by Tavani (2007, p. 3) as “the study of moral, legal and social issues involving cybertechnology”. Cybertechnology encompasses technological devices ranging from individual computers through to networked information and communication technologies. When considering ethical issues relating to cybertechnology and technology in general, Tavani (2007, pp. 23-24) notes that the latter should not necessarily be perceived as neutral. That is, technology may have “embedded values and biases” (Tavani 2007, p. 24), in that it may inherently provide capabilities to individuals to partake in unethical activities. This sentiment is echoed by Wakunuma and Stahl (2014, p. 393) in a paper examining the perceptions of IS professionals in relation to emerging ethical concerns.

Alternatively, research in this domain may be classed as a form of “computer ethics” or “information ethics”, which can be defined and applied using numerous approaches. While this article does not attempt to provide an in-depth account of information ethics, a number of its crucial characteristics are identified. In the first instance, the value of information ethics is in its ability to provide a conceptual framework for understanding the array of ethical challenges stemming from the introduction of new ICTs (Mathiesen 2004, p. 1). According to Floridi (1999), the question at the heart of information ethics is “what is good for an information entity and the infosphere in general?” The author continues that “more analytically, we shall say that [information ethics] determines what is morally right or wrong, what ought to be done, what the duties, the ‘oughts’ and the ‘ought nots’ of a moral agent are…” However, Capurro (2006, p. 182) disagrees, claiming that information ethics is additionally about “what is good for our bodily being-in-the-world with others in particular?” This involves contemplation of other “spheres” such as the ecological, political, economic, and cultural and is not limited to a study of the infosphere as suggested by Floridi. In this sense, the significance of context, environment and intercultural factors also becomes apparent.

Following on from these notions, there is the need for a robust ethical framework that is multi-dimensional in nature and explicitly covers the socio-ethical challenges emerging from the deployment of a given technology. This would include, but not be limited to, the control and trust issues identified throughout this paper, other concerns such as privacy and security, and any challenges that emerge as the IoT takes shape. This article proposes a broader more robust socio-ethical conceptual framework, as an appropriate means of examining and addressing ethical challenges relevant to LBS; both LBS in general and as a vital mediating component within the IoT. This framework is illustrated in Figure 1. Central to the socio-ethical framework is the contemplation of individuals as part of a broader social network or society, whilst considering the interactions amongst various elements of the overall “system”. The four themes underpinning socio-ethical studies include the investigation of what the human purpose is, what is moral, how justice is upheld and the principles that guide the usage of a given technique. Participants; their interactions with systems; people concerns and behavioural expectations; cultural and religious belief; structures, rules and norms; and fairness, personal benefits and personal harms are all areas of interest in a socio-ethical approach.

Figure 1: Proposed socio-ethical framework, in terms of the major components that require consideration

Figure 1: Proposed socio-ethical framework, in terms of the major components that require consideration

This article is intended to offer a preliminary account of the socio-ethical conceptual framework being proposed. Further research would examine and test its validity, whilst also providing a more detailed account of the various components within and how a socio-ethical assessment would be conducted based on the framework, and the range of techniques that could be applied.

The need for objectivity 1.4.4

Regardless of categorization and which conceptual framework is adopted, numerous authors stress that the focus of 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 organisation. This is a situation that requires rectifying. 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 and promoting adequate safeguards (Clarke 1988, pp. 510-511). It has been argued that IS professionals are generally disinterested in the ethical challenges associated with emerging ICTs, and are rather concerned with the job or the technologies themselves (Wakunuma and Stahl 2014, p. 383).

This is explicitly the case for LBS given that the industry and technology have developed quicker than equivalent social implications scholarship and research, an unfavourable situation given the potential for LBS to have profound impacts on individuals and society (Perusco et al. 2006, p. 91). In a keynote address centred on defining the emerging notion of überveillance, Clarke (2007a, p. 34) 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.

Difficulties associated with objectivity 1.4.5

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 dual, and opposing, 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. 2006a, p. 7). A closer look at the scenario involving parents tracking children, as explained by Michael et al. (2006a, 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 dual and opposing uses of a single LBS solution become problematic and situation-dependent, and indeed increasingly difficult to objectively examine. Dobson and Fischer (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.”

This is similarly the case in relation to the IoT, as public approval of the IoT is largely centred on “the conventional dualisms of ‘security versus freedom’ and ‘comfort versus data privacy’” (Mattern and Floerkemeier 2010, p. 256). Assessing the implications of the IoT infrastructure as a whole is increasingly difficult.

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, pp. 218). The consequent social implications or “dangers” are thus a product of individuals being convicted, correctly or otherwise, 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.

However, in situations where integrity is not compromised, an LBS application can be perceived as advantageous. For instance, Michael et al. (2006, pp. 1-11) refer to the potentially beneficial uses of LBS, in their paper focusing on the Avian Flu Tracker prototype that is intended to manage and contain the spread of the infectious disease, by relying on spatial data to communicate with individuals in the defined location. The authors demonstrate that their proposed system which is intended to operate on a subscription or opt-in basis is beneficial for numerous stakeholders such as government, health organisations and citizens (Michael et al. 2006c, p. 6).

Thus, 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. Given these subjectivities and the potential for inconsistency from one individual to the next, Tavani (2007, p. 47) asserts that there is the need for ethical theories to direct the analysis of moral issues (relating to technology), given that numerous complications or disagreements exist in examining ethics.

Conclusion 1.5

This article has provided a comprehensive review of the control- and trust-related challenges relevant to location-based services, in order to identify and describe the major social and ethical considerations within each of the themes. The relevance of the IoT in such discussions has been demonstrated and a socio-ethical framework proposed to encourage discussion and further research into the socio-ethical implications of the IoT with a focus on LBS and/or localization technologies. The proposed socio-ethical conceptual framework requires further elaboration and it is recommended that a thorough analysis, beyond information ethics, be conducted based on this paper which forms the basis for such future work. IoT by its very nature is subject to socio-ethical dilemmas because for the greater part, the human is removed from decision-making processes and is instead subject to a machine.


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Citation: Roba Abbas, Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, "Using a Social-Ethical Framework to Evaluate Location-Based Services in an Internet of Things World", IRIE, International Review of Information Ethics, http://www.i-r-i-e.net/ Source: http://www.i-r-i-e.net/inhalt/022/IRIE-Abbas-Michael-Michael.pdf Dec 2014


Honorary Fellow Dr Roba Abbas:

·         School of Information Systems and Technology, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia

·         ( + 612 - 4221 - 3555 , * roba@uow.edu.au :http://www.technologyandsociety.org/members/2013/7/25/dr-roba-abbas

·         Relevant publications:

o    R. Abbas, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, R. Nicholls, Sketching and validating the location-based services (LBS) regulatory framework in Australia, Computer Law and Security Review 29, No.5 (2013): 576-589.

o    R. Abbas, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, The Regulatory Considerations and Ethical Dilemmas of Location-Based Services (LBS): A Literature Review, Information Technology & People 27, No.1 (2014): 2-20.

Associate Professor Katina Michael:

·         School of Information Systems and Technology, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia

·         ( + 612 - 4221 - 3937 , * katina@uow.edu.au : http://ro.uow.edu.au/kmichael

·         Relevant publications:

o    K. Michael, R. Clarke, Location and Tracking of Mobile Devices: Überveillance Stalks the Streets, Computer Law and Security Review 29, No.3 (2013): 216-228.

o    K. Michael, M. G. Michael, Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants, IGI Global, (2009).

o    L. Perusco, K. Michael, Control, trust, privacy, and security: evaluating location-based services, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 26, No.1 (2007): 4-16.

Honorary Associate Professor M.G. Michael

·         School of Information Systems and Technology, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia

·         ( + 612 – 4221 - 3937, *  mgm@uow.edu.au, : http://ro.uow.edu.au/mgmichael

·         Relevant publications:

o    M.G. Michael and K. Michael (eds) Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants: Emerging Technologies, Hershey: PA, IGI Global, (2013).

o    K. Michael, M. G. Michael, "The Social and Behavioral Implications of Location-Based Services, Journal of Location-Based Services, Volume 5, Issue 3-4, (2011), 121-137.

o    M.G. Michael, K. Michael, Towards a State of Uberveillance, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 29, No.2, (2010): 9-16.

o    M. G. Michael, S. J. Fusco, K. Michael, A Research Note on Ethics in the Emerging Age of Uberveillance, Computer Communications, 31 No.6, 2008: 1192-1199.

Location-based services (LBS) regulatory framework in Australia


Location-based services (LBS) are defined as those applications that combine the location of a mobile device associated with a given entity (individual or object) together with contextual information to offer a value-added service. LBS solutions are being deployed globally, and in some markets like Australia, without appropriate regulatory provisions in place. Recent debates in Australia have addressed the need to bridge the gap between technological developments and legal/regulatory provisions. This requires an assessment of the regulatory environment within a given social context such as Australia. The core components of such an investigation include: (a) composing a conceptual framework for analysing regulation of technologies such as LBS, one that is sensitive to public policy themes and challenges, and (b) applying this conceptual framework to the Australian setting in order to sketch and define the components of the present framework, and identify areas for improvement through a process of validation. This paper addresses these aims, demonstrating how the current regulatory framework in Australia is bound by legislation with respect to privacy, telecommunications, surveillance, and national security (that is, anti-terrorism), in addition to a set of industry guidelines for location-service providers (LSPs). The existing Australian framework, however, is lacking in its coverage and treatment of LBS and location data, and does not adequately address the themes and challenges in the defined conceptual framework.

1. Introduction

Measuring the need for LBS regulation and engaging in related dialogue requires an informed understanding of regulation and public policy in general, and of existing LBS regulatory practices and frameworks. One approach is to consider regulation in the context of government and governance (Braithwaite et al., 2007, p. 3):

Governments and governance are about providing, distributing, and regulating. Regulation can be conceived as that large subset of governance that is about steering the flow of events and behaviour, as opposed to providing and distributing.

That is, regulation is concerned with “the effects of actions, not on the actions or the means of the actions themselves” (Koops, 2006, p. 6). Various theories and approaches to regulation exist. According to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), regulatory theory (in relation to information privacy) may include principles-based and compliance- or outcomes-oriented methods (ALRC, 2008, pp. 234–40).

Public policy, on the other hand, can take on various definitions and may involve ambiguity (Bridgman and Davis, 2004, p. 3). In simple terms, public policy is “about what governments do, why, and with what consequences” (Fenna, 1998, p. 3). However, there are a variety of interpretations of the term, as summarised by Maddison and Denniss (2009, pp. 3–4) based on the work of numerous authors in the public policy sphere. Importantly, the authors state that regardless of interpretation, public policy can be viewed in one of two ways: either as “the result of authoritative choice” in which government ministers play a dominant role in decision-making, or as “the result of structured interaction” involving cooperation between players and appreciation of conflicting interests (Maddison and Denniss, 2009, p. 4). That is, regulation is a set of rules designed to govern the operation and intervention of stakeholders. This operation is often in a market setting and thus lends itself to economic analysis (Stigler, 1971). Stigler's work recognised the strong interactions of the regulated with a regulator in the implementation of regulation and its enforcement. This paper similarly argues that regulation and public policy-making processes in the technology realm rely on a process of collaboration and consultation amongst industry stakeholders. With respect to regulatory choices regarding LBS, interaction between government and industry stakeholders is necessary given that the delivery of a given solution is reliant on the involvement of a range of stakeholders such as wireless network operators and handset vendors.

For the purpose of this paper, it should be noted that regulation and public policy-related processes are complex practices that vary from one context to the next and evolve as new debates emerge whereby existing processes and regulatory mechanisms must be reassessed. This interaction is made more complex in the Australian Federal environment where the constitution determines that some aspects of LBS are legislated at a national level and some at a state level. This necessitates an appraisal of current State and Federal legislation relevant to LBS in a manner that allows the regulatory framework and existing measures to be drawn, subsequently allowing the outcomes to be employed as the basis for future work. As such, this paper aims to develop a conceptual framework detailing how to examine LBS regulation, subsequently applying the framework to the Australian case. The outcome will be a sketch of the current LBS regulatory environment in Australia and the subsequent validation of the existing regime. An aspect of Australian law that assists this inquiry is the common approach taken by the States to their legislation. This common basis with a focus on Federal law means that this paper can provide a preliminary sketch of the existing national framework.

Current literature and studies relating to the LBS regulatory environment note that suitable regulatory frameworks are essential to industry development, from the perspective of safeguarding the interests of multiple stakeholders, notably, providers and users, in addition to government entities and society as a whole. Such frameworks should ideally address the ethical dilemmas and social implications of LBS, whilst also being sensitive to the regulatory and public policy challenges associated with emerging technologies in general. Furthermore, and in light of the divergent uses of LBS, Dobson and Fischer (2003, p. 51) call for protective mechanisms that enable the “legitimate uses”, while preventing undesirable exploitation. Similarly, Smith (2006, p. 725) acknowledges the potential benefits, whilst also suggesting further legislation to safeguard personal location information. The significance of adequate regulatory provisions is two-fold. First, regulation encourages fairness and consistent rules for providers. Second, regulation functions to safeguard individuals thereby increasing their support and trust in LBS (Cuijpers and Koops, 2008, p. 881; FIDIS, 2007, p. 10).

Regardless of the potential benefits of LBS, authors such as Clarke and Wigan (2011)indicate that LBS “have far outstripped both public awareness and legal and policy attention”, a situation they claim is exceedingly risky. The consequences of lack of regulation, specifically of tracking services and control over location histories by government, organisations and interested individuals, are great in terms of privacy in particular (Barreras and Mathur, 2007, p. 177). Cho (2005) claims that while concerned individuals are advocating regulation (p. 209) others are advancing the self-regulation movement (p. 253). Determining the most suitable response is indeed a challenge, one that requires the current regulatory environment and/or framework to be mapped out. However, it has been suggested that a single approach to regulation, such as legislation or self-regulation for instance, will fail to suffice. Xu et al. (2009, p. 163) agree that a single approach to regulating privacy in particular will not account for the interests of the diverse stakeholders comprising the LBS industry. Herbert (2006, p. 437), on the other hand, recommends an elementary reassessment of the manner in which emerging technologies, such as human tracking technologies, affect privacy as the basis for initiating a suitable legal response. In fact, the same sentiments apply for any regulatory issue associated with LBS. That is, a fundamental re-evaluation of the implications of LBS, in conjunction with an understanding of the regulatory and public policy challenges that apply, is indispensable.

The following section offers an overview of the significant themes and challenges pertaining to LBS regulation thereby providing a conceptual framework for examining LBS regulation; Section 3 introduces the Australian framework by applying the conceptual framework drawn from Section 2; Section 4 summarises and validates the main components in the Australian framework, noting areas for future research and Section 5provides the concluding remarks for this paper.

2. Conceptual framework for analysing LBS regulation

It is essential that a conceptual framework for LBS regulation be built on a preliminary understanding of the regulatory and public policy challenges associated with emerging technologies such as LBS. It has been noted that regulatory challenges in the LBS domain stem from the mounting gap between technology deployment and the employment of appropriate safeguards, legal or otherwise, to govern various aspects of LBS. For instance, in relation to modern surveillance technologies, Marx (1999, p. 63)observes the increasing gap between technological potential and present measures designed to offer protection. This gap has long been attributed to a lack of response in social and political spheres (Clarke, 2001, p. 13). Relevant scholarship is generally focussed on the inability for law to reflect technological change, a perspective that Moses (2011, p. 787) feels requires adjustment, given the mutually shaping characteristics of law and technology and the belief that “[t]he law should not race ahead by anticipating technological trajectories that may never come to pass. Rather, a useful goal should be to have mechanisms in place to ensure that law is designed around the socio-technical landscape of the present or, more realistically, the recent past.”

Aside from the interaction between technology and law, the study of regulation according to Svantesson (2011, pp. 243–245), often introduces researchers to a persistent set of themes which are centred on the claims that: (a) technological development will inevitably out-pace law-making processes, (b) legal professionals possess inadequate knowledge of technology, (c) globalisation and internationalisation necessitate consideration of multiple jurisdictions, and (d) the growth potential of technology has not been realised in domains such as e-commerce. While originally recommended for the internet regulation context, Svantesson's work is utilised as the basis for this framework in that it offers a clear summary of the themes relevant to all technological domains including LBS. Importantly, Svantesson's work posits that a successful regulatory framework must be sensitive to numerous challenges specific to the regulation of emerging technologies. However, that sensitivity does not mean that regulation has to be technologically determinative. A well-designed principles-based regulatory regime can address each of these four issues.

Fig. 1 provides a summary of these challenges, which have been derived from the secondary literature sources cited in this paper, in addition to a summary of Svantesson's primary themes which directly impact on the challenges. The distinct challenges are discussed below which when combined form a conceptual framework upon which the existing Australian framework and regimes in other contexts can be validated.

Fig. 1. Conceptual framework for examining LBS regulation and the associated regulatory themes impacting on the framework.

2.1. The Australian policy and regulatory context

Regulation refers to the set of rules which apply to a specific environment. These rules might be prescriptive and enforced rigidly, or they may be set by agreement between the entities being regulated. A regulatory environment can be likened to the rules for playing a game. In a regulated industry, there may be legislation, subordinate legislation made under specific laws (confusingly, often called regulations) and a set of conventions, adopted by stakeholders, which form part of the rules. In the Australian context, the rules can be changed by: changing the legislation; changing the subordinate legislation; by ministerial determination; by regulator action; or by stakeholders changing self-regulatory or co-regulatory codes.

Any changes are complicated by the Australian convention of amending legislation much more regularly than repealing and replacing it. By convention, amending legislation is named differently to the amended act. For legislation introduced since about 1990, the intention of legislation is set out in a section of the law entitled “Objects of the Act”. This section is intended to set out the principles behind the legislative framework. In the Australian context, these principles are generally designed to be general and not technology-specific. However, subordinate legislation may be technologically determinative, even if the primary legislation is not.

2.2. Technology-specific versus technology-neutral

A primary regulatory challenge exists in determining the suitability of technology-specific versus technology-neutral legislation. A popular belief in selected literature and in the government domain is the need for inclusive legislation that is broad enough to apply to present and future technologies, ensuring that laws remain up-to-date. This is the basic premise underlying the technology-neutral approach to legislation which “appears to have three main aims: future proofing, online and offline equivalence, and encouraging the development and uptake of the regulated technology” (Reed, 2007, p. 275). This approach is often incorrectly perceived in a positive sense, disregarding the fact that “technology-neutral language” does not necessarily account for the dynamic nature of technological change (Moses, 2007, p. 270). It has been argued by Koops (2006, pp. 5–6)that the phrase technology-neutral can imply different meanings and be examined from regulatory, technological and legislative perspectives (p. 26). For a comprehensive treatment of the concept and the varying interpretations and perspectives, refer to Koops (2006) and Reed (2007). According to Australia's Privacy Commissioner with reference to the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988, technology-neutral legislation refers to the regulation of “information handling without referring to specific technologies”, granting flexibility and ensuring relevance as new technologies emerge (Pilgrim, 2010, p. 23).

It has been argued that parliaments “are using the spurring notion of ‘technology-neutral’ legislation as one excuse for inaction” (Clarke, 2003), resulting in a situation in which “[n]ew powers are granted through technological ambiguity rather than clear debate” (Escudero-Pascual and Hosein, 2004, p. 82). However, Pilgrim (2010, p. 24) contends that adopting this approach does not necessarily mean overlooking developments in technology. Other authors also insist that “legal regulation should define principles, functions and requirements, drawn from the experience (or anticipation) of using specific technologies, rather than provisions regulating the specific technologies themselves” (Székely et al., 2011, p. 183). Yet, Reed (2007, pp. 279–280) and Moses (2007, pp. 270–274) are sceptical of whether such legislation can be achieved in the drafting process as language that accounts for technology-neutrality is difficult to adequately reflect the nature of technological evolution. Even if accomplished, Hosein (2001, p. 29) claims that the approach is deceitful as it may disregard critical factors unique to certain technologies.

An alternative approach calls for technology-specific legislation, which is not without its drawbacks. Several researchers maintain that seeking technology-specificity will produce issues relating to the future applicability of legislation in that technological progress may render the law ineffectual and redundant (Koops, 2006, p. 27; Székely et al., 2011, pp. 182–183). Nonetheless, authors such as Ohm (2010) declare that there is a compelling case for technology-specific legislation. In an article titled The Argument against Technology-Neutral Surveillance Laws, Ohm explains that technology-neutral concepts are often emphatically embraced (p. 1685). This thereby prohibits the potential benefits of technology-specificity from being garnered, even though there are several flaws in technology-neutrality whereby the benefits of the approach can be offset by limitations specifically in relation to surveillance (p. 1686). However, Ohm claims that “longevity” is an advantage of technology-neutral legislation (p. 1702) but also suggests general principles that can be applied to technology-specific legislation that will address issues of redundancy and achieving a suitable degree of specificity (pp. 1702–1710). The selection of the technology-neutral versus technology-specific approach to legislation should be perceived as a choice, and technology-neutrality should not be presumed the most suitable means of regulating technology (Reed, 2007, p. 282–283; Ohm, 2010, p. 1686).

In the Australian context, the use of technology-neutral primary legislation and technologically determinative, and more frequently amended subordinate legislation, is intended to provide both options to create an optimal regulatory environment. However in the context of LBS, the optimisation function is complicated by the fact that there is no primary or subordinate legislation on LBS. As will be shown in this paper, LBS crosses a range of regulatory regimes, all of which are optimised for the principles set out in the primary legislation. As a result, the extent to which each approach applies to LBS has yet to be examined and cannot be so until the existing regulatory landscape has been defined and reviewed. LBS are positioned in a complex and multi-faceted regulatory environment with no single LBS regulatory framework.

2.3. Legislation versus self-regulation

An additional concern, particularly for industry, is exercising caution in the introduction of legal measures so as not to stifle development of particular technologies or industries. The Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) at Section 5 states that telecommunications should be regulated in a manner that promotes the greatest practicable use of industry self-regulation consistent with the objects of the Act. However, the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth) have no such reference.

In the context of LBS, the telecommunications sector stakeholders would anticipate self-regulation as the core of the regulatory environment. On the other hand, a privacy advocate would expect a regulatory approach which is strictly rules based (legislation and subordinate legislation). This creates a potential struggle between the two forms of regulatory implementation. In the context of online privacy, Hirsch (2010, pp. 22–33)describes this struggle. Hirsch (2010, p. 3) also claims that the self-regulation has been dominant to date. Self-regulation is an ideal approach for advancing the growth of the information and communications technologies (ICT) sector (Koops, 2006, p. 9). An overview of industry self-regulation theory and literature is presented in Hemphill (2004, pp. 83–84). While self-regulation can assume many forms, Gunningham and Rees (1997, pp. 364–365) differentiate between the individual and group approaches. The first refers to autonomous regulation by an individual entity and the second to collective regulation, an example of which is industry self-regulation requiring cooperation amongst entities. According to the authors, other distinctions can also be made relative to economic versus social factors, in addition to the level of government involvement in the self-regulation process, including the degree to which self-regulation is mandated (p. 365). There is the belief that self-regulation complemented by some form of government involvement is of greater value than self-regulation alone (p. 366).

The self-regulation approach is typically favoured by industry due to its ability to facilitate and adapt to market and technological developments, and may accompany government regulation particularly in cases where gaps in the latter exist (Cleff, 2010, p. 162). The approach is frequently expressed as a fitting antidote to the limiting nature of legislative action. For example, O'Connor and Godar (2003, pp. 257–260) argue that industry self-regulation is preferable to legislation, eliminating the need for restrictive laws that hamper progress within the industry as was the case in the telemarketing arena. The researchers also state that self-regulatory measures should be developed with sensitivity to ethical concerns, otherwise they will be perceived unfavourably by consumers (O'Connor and Godar, 2003, p. 259). Only then can self-regulation demonstrate potential and be beneficial. Theoretical benefits include “speed, flexibility, sensitivity to market circumstances and lower costs”, but practically self-regulation generally falls short of these expectations (Gunningham and Rees, 1997, p. 366).

This is due to self-regulation being criticised as a means of avoiding State involvement and other forms of regulation (Gunningham and Rees, 1997, p. 370; Clarke, 2003), enabling industry to achieve its goals to the detriment of the public. Furthermore, the capacity for self-regulation to address societal concerns, such as consumer privacy, is questionable due largely to the lack of transparency, and as such the approach can merely serve as an adjunct to government regulation (Cleff, 2010, p. 162). Industry self-regulation should nonetheless be considered earnestly, although an understanding of its dimensions and known restrictions is indispensable (Gunningham and Rees, 1997, p. 405). Self-regulation and industry involvement in regulatory processes may be beneficial to consumers and other stakeholders. However, validating its value when compared with legislation requires an assessment of the level of independent oversight that exists, the manner in which self-regulation is implemented and the extent to which it complements present legislation and regulatory mechanisms.

2.4. Multiple and competing stakeholder interests

In considering the balance between rules-based regulation and self-regulation, a notable challenge emerges surrounding the importance of accounting for multiple and competing interests. That is, how the views of multiple stakeholders can be integrated without creating “regulatory capture” (see for example, Dal Bó, 2006) by the stakeholders with the greatest commercial or political power. This may theoretically be achieved by employing the co-regulatory approach to regulation. While the co-regulatory approach is an involved process that embodies countless complexities and facets (Hirsch, 2010, pp. 6–8, 41–46), and has been regarded a promising means of collaboratively managing multiple interests, it is also essential to recognise that such collaboration will involve reconciling rival perspectives. From the discussion above, it is apparent that certain entities will favour particular forms of and approaches to regulation. For example, there is often opposition from the technical and scientific communities in relation to legislation, which is typically perceived as a possible impediment to the technology development process (Székely et al. 2011, p. 183). Such communities are generally in favour of self-regulation and technology-based approaches in that they ensure industry progress is not hindered. However, these sentiments are not supported by all stakeholders. The LBS industry, with its varied value chain, consists of a wide range of stakeholders and its composition is dependent on a given LBS solution.

2.5. Flexible regulatory structures

In addition to being sensitive to varying stakeholder interests, a regulatory environment must be cognisant of the rapid and/or continual changes caused by technological innovations. This may require contemplation of flexible regulatory structures. However, it is likely that a regulatory framework would have no greater level of flexibility as a standards body dealing with the same innovations. For the purpose of this discussion, flexibility simply refers to the general need for the regulatory environment to deal with constant technological change. This is an important element as the pace of technological development and usage “raises the question whether law in general manages to keep up” (Cleff, 2010, p. 161). The level of flexibility does not require the law to “keep up”. Rather, it requires the regulatory environment to be able to flex. Nonetheless, the introduction of flexible regulatory structures capable of adapting to and incorporating developments in technology remains a challenge, one which technology-neutrality and self-regulation attempt to surmount. The introduction of adaptable structures demands a nuanced understanding of the nature of emerging technologies, and related legal and ethical challenges. Székely et al. (2011, p. 183) claim this to be an issue, given that a relatively limited number of legal experts possess such knowledge, a claim supported by Svantesson (2011, p. 244).

It is within this multi-faceted and intricate regulatory environment that the need for LBS regulation in Australia must be investigated, an environment that is characterised by diverse approaches to ICT regulation and privacy, that complicate regulatory debates associated with technologies such as LBS. The following section identifies the Australian regulatory framework for LBS, which is largely legislation-based but is supplemented by self-regulation. This is followed by the application of the conceptual framework drawn together in this section to the Australian case in order to validate the existing scheme. A sketch of the LBS regulatory framework in Australia has not yet been attempted, nor has the validity of such a framework been previously measured. This paper will consequently provide the foundations for further study into the need for LBS regulation in Australia.

3. LBS regulatory framework in Australia

Research into LBS regulation is very much context-dependent as each setting will inevitably embody a distinctive approach to regulation, based on numerous factors. This approach may involve a review of existing legal frameworks, for example, in addition to an assessment of the unique cultural, political, economic and other factors that define such regulatory frameworks. These differences demand an independent reflection of respective regulatory settings. Initially, context delineates the “structured social settings with characteristics that have evolved over time (sometimes long periods of time), and are subject to a host of causes and contingencies of purpose, place, culture, historical accident, and more” (Nissenbaum, 2010, pp. 129–130). With respect to regulation and the law, context produces challenges across jurisdictions, affecting both internationalisation of legal frameworks pertaining to LBS and interpretation of laws within specific settings. Such issues are evident in the implementation of the European legal framework for LBS, in which Member States have integrated applicable European Union Directives in alternative ways, resulting in varied coverage and distinct difficulties in the respective nations, as demonstrated in a report by the FIDIS Consortium (FIDIS, 2007).

The importance of context to regulatory and public policy discussions is not restricted to the jurisdictional issues but is also apparent in sub-contexts. For example, Marx (1999, p. 46) identifies “setting” as being of particular importance in terms of LBS usability contexts. That is, a location-monitoring solution that aids a skier in the event of an avalanche is perceived in a different light to the same device being covertly installed in an individual's vehicle. To form the foundations for a context-based investigation of LBS regulation in Australia, the Australian regulatory framework for LBS is presented in this section.

The present regime in Australia is comprised of and dominated by a collection or patch-work of federal and state-based laws that relate – albeit to varying degrees – to diverse aspects of LBS, in addition to numerous industry-based codes that seek to protect the interests of consumers and organisations. With respect to legislation, federal laws relating to privacy (Cho, 2005APF, 2007ALRC, 2008Rodrick, 2009), telecommunications(APF, 2007Nicholls and Rowland, 2007Nicholls and Rowland, 2008a,bRodrick, 2009), surveillance (APF, 2007ALRC, 2008Rodrick, 2009VLRC, 2009Attorney General's Department, 2011Michael and Clarke, 2012) and national security/anti-terrorism apply (Rix, 2007VLRC, 2009Attorney General's Department, 2011Michael and Clarke, 2013). With respect to self-regulatory schemes, industry-based guidelines such as those developed by Communications Alliance and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) are of significance. The respective approaches are now examined in greater detail.

Author of Geographic Information Systems and the Law: Mapping the Legal Frontiers(1998) and Geographic Information Science: Mastering the Legal Issues (2005) is GIS and legal scholar, George Cho. Both of Cho's works analyse the legal implications of geographic information and related technologies. In the first book, Cho (1998, pp. 27–28)explains that an elementary appreciation of the legal and policy challenges associated with GIS requires disaggregation of the terms geographic, information, and systems to define issues within individual themes. The author claims that information (and data) are central to these challenges (p. 28) given their ability to “be beneficial or detrimental to individuals, groups and ultimately to society at large” (p. 31) and to symbolise various power relations (p. 130). The “double-edged” nature of GIS simultaneously grants access while also enabling abuse and invasion of privacy (p. 131), thus requiring a policy response that may be enacted through “education of the public, facilitation, regulation and the provision of incentives” (p. 166). In sketching the LBS regulatory framework throughout this paper and considering the available regulatory choices, it is crucial to be mindful of this “double-edged” nature of LBS, specifically that LBS applications and devices can enable constructive uses on the one hand and simultaneously facilitate less desirable uses on the other.

In Cho's second book (2005, pp. 17–18) he advances the discussion by outlining the intricacies characterising GIS-related policy development given the multitude of actors, the abundance of applications and the rise in m-commerce and geo- or g-commerce services. Providing introductory material relating to policy, law and the relationship between the latter and GIS, Cho maintains that policy challenges are of equivalent value to technical considerations associated with geographic information access, implementation and usage (p. 27). With respect to GPS, and tracking more specifically, the author asserts that policy debates are generally concerned with privacy and human rights violations (p. 44). The privacy threat is largely the effect of “the new inferences that may be obtained by correlating geographic information with personal information” (p. 211). In Australia, the privacy threat and its varying implications fall within the scope of a regulatory framework that has been described as “ad-hoc”, entailing approaches such as legislation and self-regulation that aim to safeguard personal and information privacy (p. 217). The framework is based on existing legal safeguards that aim to protect public and private sector handling of information in accordance with a collection of privacy principles (p. 257), notably, the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (see also, Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000 (Cth); Morris, 2010). For a comprehensive listing of privacy-related legislation, including state-based laws omitted from this paper, see Clarke (2010) and APF (2007).

3.1. Privacy legislation

The Privacy Act 1988 was amended in November 2012 to introduce the Australian Privacy Principles (APP). These principles come into effect in March 2014. The APPs are a single set of principles that apply to both agencies and organisations, which are together defined as APP entities. While the APPs apply to all APP entities, in some cases, they impose specific obligations that apply only to organisations or only to agencies. The APP concerning anonymity or pseudonymity (APP 2) and cross-border disclosure (APP 8) will have an impact on LBS providers. The APPs extend the existing obligations on data collection to rebalance the rights of collectors of personal information and an individual's right to privacy. There are also stricter controls on the collection and use of sensitive information.

The Office of the Australian Information Commission (OAIC) offers further information about the APPs which cover sensitive personal information handling (OAIC, n.d.). The Privacy Act 1988 defines ‘sensitive information’ as: “information or an opinion about an individual's: (i) racial or ethnic origin; or (ii) political opinions; or (iii) membership of a political association; (iv) religious beliefs or affiliations; or (v) philosophical beliefs; or (vi) membership of a professional or trade association; or (vii) membership of a trade union; or (viii) sexual preferences or practices; or (ix) criminal record; that is also personal information” (Part II, Section 6). Sensitive information can also encompass health and genetic information. In the context of the Privacy Act 1988, personal information refers to “information or an opinion (including information or an opinion forming part of a database), whether true or not, and whether recorded in a material form or not, about an individual whose identity is apparent, or can reasonably be ascertained, from the information or opinion” (Part II, Section 6).

It has been argued that the major dilemma in relation to LBS, location privacy and existing legislation is that the location of an individual may not necessarily be regarded as sensitive personal information. However, the obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 in respect to personal information under the APP are relatively onerous. It has been argued that processed LBS data presents sizeable privacy implications (Cho, 2005, p. 258).

The 2012 amendments to the Privacy Act 1988 were guided by The Australian Law Review Commission's (ALRC, 2008) report entitled For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice. This took into account submissions such as the policy statement by the Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) on “the use of positional data relating to mobile devices as a means of locating and tracking the individuals carrying them” (APF, 2011). That is, current government policy is that the privacy legislation in Australia deals with LBS-related privacy concerns at the federal level. One state, Victoria, has attempted to address these issues through human rights legislation (Michael and Clarke, 2012, pp. 4–5).

3.2. Telecommunications legislation

Location data is not, however, only subject to privacy legislation but also falls within the scope of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth). These laws collectively deal with telecommunications content and data interception, disclosure and use. The Telecommunications Act 1997 prohibits the disclosure and use of telecommunications metadata and telecommunications content. This prohibition is clarified in section 275A to include location information and a limited exemption to this prohibition for the purpose of providing “location dependent carriage services” is given in section 291A. However, there is no immunity provided for LBS which do not have a carriage component.

Relevant to this discussion, the ALRC's report outlines the interaction between the Privacy Act 1988 and the Telecommunications Act 1997 noting that both laws aim to regulate privacy and various forms of information (ALRC, 2008). The Privacy Act relates to safeguarding personal information, while Part 13 of the Telecommunications Act “regulates the use or disclosure of information or a document” (ALRC, 2008, p. 2381). The review, questions whether both privacy regimes are required, outlining a number of differing stakeholder opinions (ALRC, 2008, pp. 2385–8). Furthermore, it concludes with the opinion that while there is observable “merit in the promulgation of telecommunications privacy regulations under the Privacy Act to regulate the handling of personal information” (ALRC, 2008, p. 2388), “both the Telecommunications Act and the Privacy Act should continue to regulate privacy in the telecommunications industry” (p. 2389), however, the exchange between the two laws requires clarification (p. 2391). It would have been feasible, if it were government policy, for the amendments to the Privacy Act that were made in 2012 to have a set of consequential amendments to other legislation such as the Telecommunications Act 1997. The absence of such an amendment implies that there is no policy imperative requiring such a change.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, on the other hand, is intended “to protect the privacy of personal communications by generally prohibiting interception of those communications, subject to limited exceptions in which privacy is outweighed by other considerations”, and functions alongside Part 13 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Nicholls and Rowland, 2007, pp. 86–87). However, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 does not have the objects of the Telecommunications Act (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008a, p. 349). Significantly, the Telecommunication (Interception and Access) Act 1979 generates three regimes for intercepting telecommunications content and data. The first deals with communications metadata (including in real time), the second with stored communications, and the third is concerned with the content of communications itself (Rodrick, 2009, pp. 376–378). The regulatory framework for this legislation can be analysed by using the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) approach set out in TS 101 671. This sets out three handover interfaces that relate to (in ascending order): the relationship between the communications operator and the law enforcement agency; the request for and delivery of communications metadata; and the request for and delivery of communications content. This is depicted in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2. Interaction between communications operators and law enforcement agencies.

In Australia, there is an obligation on all communications providers (carriers and carriage service providers) to provide assistance to law enforcement agencies. Handover Interface 1 does this by legislation and by contract with law enforcement agencies in the case of the largest carriers. Handover Interface 2 is used for the delivery of communications metadata and this does not require a warrant (Rodrick, 2009, p. 384). The absence of a requirement for a warrant in Australia and merely consideration of the target's privacy expectations in the case of real-time metadata is unusual (Nicholls, 2012, p. 49). Communications content, either stored or being carried across a network is delivered over Handover Interface 3 in response to a warrant.

Relevant to LBS and this paper, it is crucial to determine the extent to which location information falls within the scope of federal telecommunications legislation, specifically the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. Of particular value is ascertaining whether location information signifies telecommunications data, in which case the implications for disclosure to and access by specific agencies is great given that such data may then be lawfully “disclosed to ASIO and law enforcement agencies without a warrant and without any independent oversight” (Rodrick, 2009, p. 391). In an article titled Regulating the Use of Telecommunications Location Data by Australian Law Enforcement AgenciesNicholls and Rowland (2008b, p. 174) argue that telecommunications data, or the metadata relevant to communications including location details, are increasingly being provided to law enforcement agencies in the absence of a warrant. The authors also note that an oversight process is lacking, a situation that is inconsistent with European and US models (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, p. 181).

That is, Australia “appears to be isolated in its approach of placing the power to have location metadata supplied on a prospective basis to law enforcement agencies” (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, p. 181). This is exceedingly problematic given that a definition of telecommunications data is non-existent in the legislation (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, p. 174) and that a certain degree of ambiguity is required in incorporating future technologies (p. 179). However, this is likely to result in issues whereby the agencies seeking location data are able to independently control the definition or the type of metadata requested (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, p. 180). Thus, agencies are lawfully able to access location data on a prospective basis. This ability for close to real-time access of location data will facilitate “live tracking” (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, p. 176).

As examined earlier in reference to federal privacy legislation, the (privacy) risks are intensified with increases in accuracy and greater use of mobile devices for tracking purposes, further questioning the suitability of present telecommunications legislation in Australia, especially given the capability for telecommunications data to be accessed without a warrant and devoid of an “independent oversight” process (Rodrick, 2009, p. 404). There has been a push for more rigorous safeguards, summarised succinctly by Rodrick (2009, p. 407): “In light of the fact that prospective location information is tantamount to surveillance, access to it should be procured only via a warrant, and, as is the case with the interception and stored communications regimes, in deciding whether to issue a warrant, the issuing authority should be required to have regard to the degree to which the privacy of a person would be interfered with”.

3.3. Surveillance legislation

The use of surveillance devices is generally prohibited under the laws of the states and territories in Australia. Each state and territory prohibits the use of tracking devices and then provides an exception to the prohibition for law enforcement agencies. A tracking device is usually defined to mean “any electronic device capable of determining or monitoring the location of a person or an object or the status of an object”. That is, an LBS device would generally be prohibited under state law if it was used for surveillance. However, if the person being tracked by the device was aware of the tracking then the use of the device would not be prohibited. Example LBS tracking devices could include smart phone-based location-monitoring solutions and dedicated data logging devices that may be mounted to a particular surface or wired into a vehicle.

The state-based exceptions refer to the law enforcement agencies of that state. As a result, the Surveillance Devices Act 2004(Cth) was introduced to provide a regime that permitted the use of surveillance devices (including tracking devices) across state and territory boundaries. The Surveillance Devices Act 2004 sets out the process through which warrants, emergency and tracking device authorisations can be obtained in relation to surveillance devices for law enforcement and other purposes (Attorney General's Department, 2011). Part 1, Section 6 of the act presents a number of definitions important for this article: “data surveillance device means any device or program capable of being used to record or monitor the input of information into, or the output of information from, a computer, but does not include an optical surveillance device…device includes instrument, apparatus and equipment… surveillance device means: (a) a data surveillance device, a listening device, an optical surveillance device or a tracking device; or (b) a device that is a combination of any 2 or more of the devices referred to in paragraph (a); or (c) a device of a kind prescribed by the regulations… tracking device means any electronic device capable of being used to determine or monitor the location of a person or an object or the status of an object.”

Michael and Clarke (2013) note that law enforcement agencies, in particular, may utilise LBS for personal and mass surveillance, which are often justified as means of maintaining security, despite the lack of an adequate judicial process in some cases.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) published a consultation-based report on the subject of Surveillance in Public Places (VLRC, 2010). While the report is largely state-focused, it covers many aspects relevant to this investigation and discusses limitations in current surveillance laws and the need for “modernising” existing state-based legislation (refer to Chapter 6 of the report). With specific reference to the Surveillance Devices Act 2004, the VLRC's accompanying consultation paper specifies its applicability to national security and surveillance efforts, explaining that the federal law does not seek to overrule state-based legislation (VLRC, 2009). In combination with the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 does, nevertheless, intend to “provide enforcement and national security agencies with significant investigative tools, including the ability to obtain warrants to intercept communications, obtain access to stored communications, install and use surveillance devices, and to obtain access to telecommunications data while still protecting the privacy of individuals” (Attorney General's Department, n.d.).

While the federal Surveillance Devices Act 2004 generally requires a warrant for surveillance, Sections 37–39 of the legislation indicate the conditions or circumstances under which a warrant is not required. Explicitly section 39 outlines the provisions in relation to tracking devices; that is: “(1) A law enforcement officer may, with the written permission of an appropriate authorising officer, use a tracking device without a warrant in the investigation of a relevant offence” and “(3) A law enforcement officer may, with the written permission of an appropriate authorising officer, use a tracking device without a warrant in the location and safe recovery of a child to whom a recovery order relates”. A tracking device can also be used by a law enforcement agency without a warrant if there is now requirement to enter premises or a vehicle (for example, by installing a magnetically mounted GPS device).

Additional rules relating to the authorisation also apply. For example, the authorisation must specify the period of validity, which should not exceed 90 days (section 39 (7)). It is clear that there are situations in which a location-enabled tracking device may be lawfully deployed, utilised and retrieved by certain law enforcement agencies. In cases where personal information has been collected using such surveillance devices, the Privacy Act 1988 will then apply.

3.4. National security and anti-terrorism legislation

Federal anti-terrorism laws also grant organisations, notably ASIO and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the facility to conduct surveillance activities and gather information believed to be in the interest of national security. For example, The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (Cth) enables ASIO to gather information considered to be of value in the deterrence of an act of terrorism (Attorney General's Department, 2011). ASIO is specifically granted the ability “to obtain a warrant to detain and question persons (who do not themselves have to be suspected of terrorism offences) in order to gather intelligence related to terrorist activity” as a form of preventative measure (Rix, 2007, p. 104). The Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), grants the AFP powers relating to questioning and surveillance (VLRC, 2010, p. 21). It also covers procedures relating to court orders, detention, questioning and search, and the collection of information and documents (Rix, 2007, p. 106). The implications of these pieces of legislation in particular, and the extent to which they apply to LBS, surveillance, tracking and location information have not been sufficiently examined and remain unclear. It has previously been suggested that these laws fail to protect human rights (Rix, 2007, p. 107), and with respect to the ASIO Act, the government has “unquestioningly granted powers to national security agencies to use location technology to track citizens”, justifying surveillance as a necessary means of ensuring Australians are protected from terrorist threats (Michael and Clarke, 2012, p. 2).

3.5. Industry guidelines for location-service providers

The LBS regulatory framework in Australia is not limited to legislation, but also includes self-regulation in the form of industry guidelines. The main industry body for all telecommunications operators in Australia is Communications Alliance. Its Guideline G557:2009 Standardised Mobile Service Area and Location Indicator Register, uses a coarse LBS to identify the geographic location of calls from mobile and nomadic devices to the emergency services.

Guidelines have also been released by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA). AMTA is “the peak industry body representing Australia's mobile telecommunications industry” (AMTA, n.d.). In 2010, AMTA released guidelines intended for location-service providers (LSP) to mitigate the threats associated with misuse of passive LBS (AMTA, 2010, p. 4), which are services that do not rely on active participation by the user once initial consent has been granted (p. 5). The guidelines were developed by AMTA's working party that comprised major stakeholders in Australia, including Nokia, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (AMTA, 2010, p. 26), providing an example of the self-regulation approach in practice. Although AMTA's guidelines were built on the NPPs and other relevant legislation (AMTA, 2010, p. 5), by April 2013 they had not been updated to reflect the amendments to the Privacy Act. The guidelines document also encourages compliance with relevant Australian laws (AMTA, 2010, p. 17) including a selection of those identified throughout this paper.

In theory, industry guidelines are significant in that they are a form of self-regulation aimed at addressing regulatory concerns, such as the risks associated with LBS usage, without the need for legislative action. As such, they form a crucial component of the LBS regulatory framework. AMTA's guidelines represent the industry's effort to ensure consumer privacy protection and safety when utilising available LBS applications – yet they have not been amended to reflect legislative change in the privacy arena. It is noteworthy that the industry-based self-regulation approach has its critics. For instance, Cho (2005, p. 236) himself claims that while self-regulation affords flexibility to industry stakeholders and symbolises a proactive approach to privacy concerns, it may by the same token be perceived an inadequate safeguard. In the context of AMTA's guidelines, Michael and Clarke (2012, p. 5) are similarly critical of the efficacy of self-regulation, claiming that industry guidelines and codes are typically “a political tool to avoid regulation.”

4. Discussion: validating the Australian framework

4.1. Summarising and sketching the LBS regulatory framework in Australia

This paper serves to sketch the current LBS regulatory framework in Australia, identifying the components comprising the overall framework, as summarised in Fig. 3. Section 3demonstrated that the LBS regulatory framework in Australia is largely dominated by legal and industry-based regulatory approaches, in particular, commonwealth-based (federal) legislation and self-regulatory mechanisms applying across Australia. The extent to which each regulatory tool applies to LBS and location data was also covered.

Fig. 3. Components of the current LBS regulatory framework in Australia.

A number of issues inevitably emerge upon closer examination of the current LBS regulatory framework in Australia. With regards to privacy legislation, it was noted that (location) information derived from LBS solutions might or might not be personal information and is unlikely to be sensitive personal information. The Privacy Act may not cover the data. Regarding Australian telecommunications legislation, location data may not specifically be classed ‘telecommunications data’ in all circumstances. The location dependent carriage service introduces ambiguity regarding definitions. The state-based prohibition on the use of tracking devices means that the provision of LBS will require explicit permission of the users of an LBS device. This is similarly the case with respect to surveillance legislation, in which tracking devices can be deployed for surveillance purposes, and without a warrant, in specific situations as outlined in the federal legislation. The implications of this lawful but covert deployment of tracking devices are yet to be fully explored. Correspondingly, national security legislation grants increasing powers to various agencies to monitor individuals under the guise of maintaining national security and protecting the interests of Australian citizens. The legal mechanisms that apply to LBS require further review, as they fail to adequately cover various aspects relevant to LBS and location data and the laws are not necessarily consistent or matching. However, opportunities for policy implementing such a review have not been seized in recent legislative change.

Similarly, industry-based guidelines are lacking in their coverage of LBS. For example, AMTA's guidelines merely cover passive LBS or those that do not require user input once initial consent is given. This is not surprising as industry bodies self-regulate a narrow group. Self-regulation is poor at involving users and other industry representatives. Supplementary to these individual issues, it is essential at this point to validate the Australian regulatory scheme in view of the conceptual framework defined earlier in this paper, in order to identify the broad challenges that surface in examining the existing framework, summarised in Table 1.

Table 1. Validation of the LBS regulatory framework in Australia.

Challenges/considerations | Validation | Areas for improvement

Technology-specific versus technology-neutral

Australian framework is largely technology-neutral (with exception of industry guidelines) and is not LBS specific.

- Subordinate legislation and regulation could be extended to cover specifics of LBS and location data.

- This may necessitate continual review of regulatory settings as LBS solutions and underlying technologies evolve.

Legislation versus self-regulation

Existing framework draws on combined legal and industry-based approach to regulation, which allows for both government and industry involvement. However, self-regulation is a characteristic of telecommunications and not privacy legislation.

- Self-regulation is created by narrow industry groups and is lacking in its involvement of users.

- There could be closer collaboration between industry and government.

- Drawbacks of current regulation and industry-based tools identified in this paper should be addressed

Multiple and competing stakeholder interests

Government and industry have largely established the current Australian framework for LBS. However, it lacks a stronger level of collaboration and user involvement.

- Collaboration and consultation are crucial in the regulatory process to ensure stakeholder representation.

- Users, in particular, must be encouraged to participate.

- Individual stakeholders in government, industry and user segments should be identified and approached.

Flexible regulatory structures

Legislation in the present framework is not particularly flexible and does not easily cater for LBS solutions in the marketplace or any future developments. Subordinate legislation is more flexible.

- Technology-specificity is required to incorporate LBS and location data into subordinate legislation.

- Industry-based tools should be continually developed and should be adaptable to technological developments.

4.2. Validation: extent to which the existing framework is specific to LBS

When considering the technology-specific versus technology-neutral debate in light of the LBS regulatory framework in Australia, it is evident that the current framework entails largely technology-neutral elements. This suggests that the framework fails to account for the specifics of LBS in that it does not adequately account for location data. This generates a risk that concerns, unique to LBS, will be overlooked in the Australian context. Technology-neutrality creates ambiguity in definitions, as can be seen in the case of the Australian privacy and telecommunications legislation in particular. However, as Australian government policy has consistently adopted technology-neutral legislation, the focus of change needs to be on subordinate legislation and self-regulatory mechanisms. The absence of an appropriate regulatory environment for LBS is undesirable from the perspective of all stakeholders, particularly individuals. The existing framework requires further provisions for LBS and location data, and it is therefore expected that legal and industry-based regulatory mechanisms will require continual review in the present technological landscape that is dominated by constant developments in both underlying technologies and emerging (and novel) usability contexts.

4.3. Validation: value of existing legislative and self-regulatory mechanisms

The Australian regulatory framework for LBS demonstrates a combined approach to regulation, in which legal and industry-based mechanisms are concurrently implemented. It is often believed that the combined approach allows for the specifics of a given technology to be better incorporated, especially at the industry level and via self-regulatory mechanisms. The Australian initiative led by AMTA can be perceived as a move towards increased industry involvement and representation, and an attempt to avoid unnecessarily stifling the LBS industry. The concern, however, lies in the limitations of self-regulation and the consequence that the guidelines are narrow in their scope and their coverage of a wide range of LBS solutions. In terms of legislation, the specific drawbacks of existing laws have been identified, requiring a review of federal legislation to ensure their applicability to LBS and that the laws are consistent and corresponding. Furthermore, closer collaboration between government, industry and users would improve the legal and industry-based mechanisms in the current framework. That is, government and other stakeholders need to be involved in industry-based processes. This type of co-regulation reduces the negative impacts of self-regulation allowing industry to impart feedback, which informs legislative processes. Importantly, consumers have an opportunity to express ‘real-world’ concerns that would directly support both legislative and co-regulatory processes.

4.4. Validation: degree to which stakeholder interests are accounted for

While government and industry perspectives have somewhat been represented in the existing framework, further collaboration is required to account for the views of users. Furthermore, individual stakeholder types must be identified within the government, industry and user segments and collaboration of individual stakeholders must be encouraged to ensure that all interests are represented in the regulatory process. In the Australian context, collaboration and consultation with a wide range of LBS value chain stakeholders in lacking, but is essential in order to incorporate multiple and competing stakeholder interests.

4.5. Validation: level of flexibility

The Australian legislative framework does not provide a flexible regulatory structure. That is, the legislation is out-dated with respect to LBS and existing provisions do not naturally enable the absorption of new LBS solutions and features. It is suggested that a higher degree of technology-specificity is required in subordinate legislation, given the unique characteristics of LBS and location data which do not always fall within the scope of current definitions. However, this approach must be carefully constructed to ensure that the chosen regulatory mechanisms are adaptable as the technology evolves. In combination with considered co-regulatory tools and guidelines that have been developed in an objective manner, this should ensure a degree of flexibility, given that regulatory systems can adapt more quickly than legislative systems.

4.6. Future research and extending the Australian framework

This paper has set the groundwork for understanding the nature and extent of the LBS regulatory framework in Australia by sketching the components of the existing scheme and defining the extent to which the respective elements apply at the federal level. It has additionally set out the regulatory and public policy context within which the framework exists and the challenges that demand a certain degree of sensitivity by presenting a conceptual framework for analysing LBS regulation. It is recommended that future studies: (a) utilise the conceptual framework as a means of measuring the validity of a given regulatory framework in a specific setting, and (b) employ the defined Australian framework as the basis for examining the need for LBS regulation in Australia and understanding the manner in which LBS regulation should be implemented.

The Australian framework presented in this paper can be further extended as part of future work. Explicit areas for prospective research include: (a) broadening the scope of the framework to account for state-based legislation and additional industry-based mechanisms, (b) encouraging a greater focus on cross-cultural comparisons by comparing the Australian case with other, more mature examples such as the European data protection regime for LBS, (c) consulting with relevant stakeholders regarding the applicability and adequacy of the Australian framework and existing regulatory measures and contrasting the results with the outcomes of the validation process presented in this paper, and (d) improving the framework based on the suggested areas for improvement.

5. Conclusion

The focus of this paper was on developing a conceptual framework for analysing LBS regulation, presenting the components of the existing Australian framework and subsequently engaging in a process of validation. The validation process indicated that the LBS regulatory framework in Australia should: (i) account more specifically for LBS and location data, (ii) better incorporate legislative, self-regulatory and co-regulatory mechanisms, (iii) encourage a higher degree of collaboration with stakeholders in the LBS value chain, and (iv) encompass a higher degree of flexibility to ensure technological developments are integrated. The benefits to be garnered from this exercise include an accurate and detailed understanding of the current framework in Australia which has allowed areas for improvement to be identified. The ensuing outcomes can be used as the basis for future research in the LBS regulation field and provide a useful starting point for determining the need for LBS regulation in Australia.


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.


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Keywords: Location-based services, Regulation, Legislation, Law, Self-regulation, Co-regulation, Industry guidelines, Privacy, Australia

Citation: Roba Abbas, Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, Rob Nicholls, Sketching and validating the location-based services (LBS) regulatory framework in Australia, Computer Law & Security Review, Vol. 29, No. 5, October 2013, pp. 576-589, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clsr.2013.07.014

Conceptual Model of User Acceptance of Location-Based Emergency Services

Towards a Conceptual Model of User Acceptance of Location-Based Emergency Services


This paper investigates the introduction of location-based services by government as part of an all-hazards approach to modern emergency management solutions. Its main contribution is in exploring the determinants of an individual’s acceptance or rejection of location services. The authors put forward a conceptual model to better predict why an individual would accept or reject such services, especially with respect to emergencies. While it may be posited by government agencies that individuals would unanimously wish to accept life-saving and life-sustaining location services for their well-being, this view remains untested. The theorised determinants include: visibility of the service solution, perceived service quality features, risks as perceived by using the service, trust in the service and service provider, and perceived privacy concerns. The main concern here is to predict human behaviour, i.e. acceptance or rejection. Given that location-based services are fundamentally a set of electronic services, this paper employs the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) as a special adaptation of the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) to serve as the theoretical foundation of its conceptualisation. A series of propositions are drawn upon the mutual relationships between the determinants and a conceptual model is constructed using the determinants and guided by the propositions. It is argued the conceptual model presented would yield to the field of location-based services research a justifiable theoretical approach competent for exploitation in further empirical research in a variety of contexts (e.g. national security).

1. Introduction

Emergency management (EM) activities have long been practiced in civil society. Such activities evolved from simple precautions and scattered procedures into more sophisticated management processes that include preparedness, protection, response, mitigation and recovery strategies (Canton, 2007). In the twentieth century, governments have been utilising technologies such as sirens, speakers, radio, television and internet to communicate and disseminate time-critical information to citizens about impending dangers, during and after hazards. Over the past decade, location based services (LBS) have been implemented, or considered for implementation, by several countries to geographically deliver warnings, notifications and possibly life-saving information to people (Krishnamurthy, 2002; Weiss et al., 2006; Aloudat et al., 2007; Jagtman, 2010).

LBS take into account the pinpoint geographic position of a given device (handheld, wearable, implantable), and provide the user of the device with value added information based on the derived locational information (Küpper, 2005; Perusco & Michael, 2007). The location information can be obtained by using various indoor and/or outdoor positioning technologies that differ in their range, coverage, precision, target market, purpose and functionality.Radio frequencies, cellular telecommunications networks and global navigation satellite systems are amongst the main access media used to determine the geographic location of a device (Michael, 2004; Perusco & Michael, 2007).The collected location information can be stored for the purpose of further processing (e.g. analysing the whereabouts of a fleet of emergency service vehicles over a period of time) or combined with other relevant information and sent back to the user in a value-added form (e.g. traffic accidents and alternative routes). The user can either initiate a request for the service or it is triggered automatically when the device enters or leaves or comes in the vicinity of a defined geographic area.

The conventional use of LBS in emergency management is to find the almost exact location of a mobile handset after an emergency call or a distress short message service (SMS).Although the accuracy of the positioning results ranges from a few metres up to several kilometres, the current objective by several governments is to regulate the telecommunications carriers to provide the location information within accuracies between 50 to 150 metres. This type of service is generally known as wireless E911 in Northern America (i.e. Canada and the United States), E112 in the European Union, and similarly, but not officially, E000 in Australia.

But, even with proximate levels of accuracy LBS applications have the ability to create much more value when they are utilised under an all hazards approach by government. For example, with LBS in use,government agencies pertinent to the emergency management portfolio can collaborate with telecommunications carriers in the country to disseminate rapid warnings and relevant safety messages to all active mobile handsets regarding severe weather conditions, an act of terrorism, an impending natural disaster or any other extreme event if it happened or was about to happen in the vicinity of these mobile handsets. For that reason, LBS solutions are critically viewed by different governments around the world as an extremely valuable addition to their arrangements for emergency notification purposes (Aloudat et al., 2007; Jagtman, 2010).

However, in relation to LBS and EM almost no study has undertaken the responsibility of exploring an individual’s acceptance of utilising the services for emergency management. One might rightly ponder on whether any individual would ever forego LBS in a time of emergency. Nonetheless, despite the apparent benefits of this type of electronic service,their commercial utilisation has long raised numerous technical, social, ethical and legal issues amongst users. For example, the quality of the service information being provided, to issues related to the right of citizen privacy, and issues concerning the legal liability of service failure or information disclosure have been raised (O’Connor & Godar, 2003; Tilson et al., 2004; Perusco et al., 2006; Perusco & Michael, 2007; Aloudat & Michael, 2011). Accordingly, the contribution of this paper is to discuss the potential determinants or drivers of a person’s acceptance or rejection for utilising location-based services for emergency management, and propose a conceptual research model that comprises the drivers and justly serves as the theoretical basis needed for further empirical research.

The rest of this paper is organised as follows: Section 2 is a discussion of the factors expected to impact on a person’s perceptions towards the services, and presentation of the theoretical propositions of the expected relationships between the factors. Section 3 introduces the conceptual model and its theoretical foundation. Section 4 outlines the steps taken for pretesting the model via a pilot survey and provides the analysis results of the data collected. Section 5 concludes the paper and discusses the implications of this research work, including the theoretical contributions to the scholarly literature.

2. Determinants of acceptance or rejection

A review of acceptance and adoption literature was conducted to identify, critically assess and then select the factors that would most likely influence individuals’ beliefs regarding the use of LBS for emergencies. This approach has been completely justified by Taylor and Todd (1995), and Venkatesh and Brown (2001) on the basis that there is a wealth of information systems (IS) acceptance research, which minimises the need to extract beliefs anew for each new acceptance setting. The adopted working definitions for the selected factors are summarised in Table 1.

Table 1. Summary of the constructs and their definitions

Factor | Description of the Adopted Working Definition | Based Upon

  • Individual’s attitude towards the use of LBS
    • Individual’s positive or negative feelings towards using LBS in emergencies. Fishbein and Ajzen (1975)
  • Individual’s intention to use LBS
    • Individual’s decision to engage or not to engage in using LBS in emergencies. Fishbein and Ajzen (1975)
  • Trust
    • The belief that allows a potential LBS user to willingly become vulnerable to the use-case outcome of LBS, having taken the characteristics of LBS into consideration, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control the services or the service provider. Mayer et al., (1995), McKnight and Chervany (2001)
  • Risk as perceived by the potential user
    • Individual’s belief of the potential loss and the adverse consequences of using LBS in emergencies and the probability that these consequences may occur if the services are used. Pavlou and Gefen (2004), Heijden et al., (2005)
  • Perceived usefulness
    • Individual perception that using LBS for managing emergencies is useful. Davis et al., (1989) Perceived ease of use The degree to which the prospective user expects LBS to be free of effort. Davis et al., (1989)
  • Visibility
    • The extent to which the actual use of LBS is observed as a solution to its potential users Agarwal and Prasad (1997)
  • Perceived service qualities
    • Individual’s global judgment relating to the superiority of the service. Parasuraman et al., (1988)
  • Perceived currency
    • Prospective user’s perception of receiving up-to-the-minute service information during emergencies. Zeithaml et al., (2000), Yang et al., (2003)
  • Perceived accuracy
    • Prospective user’s perception about the conformity of LBS with its actual attributes of content, location, and timing. Zeithaml et al., (2000), Yang et al., (2003)
  • Perceived responsiveness
    • Prospective user’s perception of receiving a prompt LBS service during emergencies. Parasuraman et al., (1988), Liljander et al., (2002), Yang et al., (2003)
  • Privacy concerns
    • as perceived by the prospective user Individual’s concerns regarding the level of control by others over personal identifiable information. Stone et al., (1983)
  • Collection
    • The concern that extensive amounts of location information or other personal identifiable data will be collected when using LBS during emergencies. Smith et al., (1996), Junglas and Spitzmuller (2005)
  • Unauthorised secondary use
    • The concern that LBS information is collected for emergency purposes but will be used for other purposes without explicit consent from the individual. Smith et al., (1996), Junglas and Spitzmuller (2005)

A further discussion of each proposed factor and the criteria behind its selection are presented in the following sections.

2.1. The Visibility of Location- Based Emergency Services

Many individuals may not be aware of the possible utilisation of location-based services in emergency management and, therefore, it could be argued that the direct advantages and disadvantages of such utilisation are not be vis­ible to them (Pura, 2005; Chang et al., 2007). Individuals who are not aware of the existence of LBS or, basically do not know anything about the capabilities of this type of electronic services in the domain of emergency management, may not develop an appreciation, or even depreciation, towards the services unless they were properly and repeatedly being introduced (exposed) to

LBS emergency management solutions. In other words, people may not be able to accu­rately judge the advantages or disadvantages of LBS unless the application of LBS is visible to them. It should be noted however, that the exposure effect does not necessarily increase the perceived functionality of the services, but it can greatly enhance or degrade the percep­tions of an individual about the usefulness of the services, thus influencing their acceptance or rejection of the services (Thong et al., 2004).

One of the key attributes of the Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) Theory by Rogers (1995) is the construct of observability, which is “the degree to which the results of an innovation are observable to others” (p. 16). Innovation is “an idea, practice, [technology, solution, service] or object that is perceived as new by an individual” (Rogers, 1995,p. 135). Later, observability was perceived by Moore and Benbasat (1991) as two distinct constructs of demonstrability and visibility. Demonstrability is “the tangibility of the results of using an innovation,” and visibility is “the extent to which potential adopters see the innovation as being visible in the adoption context” (Agarwal & Prasad, 1997, p. 562). Further interpretation of visibility surmises that, an innovation, application, solution, technology or service may not be new but it could be un­known for its prospective users. This probably is the case with LBS and their application, where the services have been around for several years now, yet their general usage rates, especially in the contexts of emergency management are still extremely limited worldwide (Frost & Sul­livan, 2007; O’Doherty et al., 2007; Aloudat & Michael, 2010).

The main contribution of the DOI theory to this paper is the integration of its visibility construct in the proposed conceptual model. Visibility is defined as the extent to which the actual utilisation of LBS in EM is observed as a solution to its potential users. Considering the arguments above and following a line of reasoning in former studies, such as Karahanna et al., (1999) and Kurnia and Chien (2003), the following proposition is given:

Proposition P1: The perception of an individual of the usefulness of location-based services for emergency management is positively related to the degree to which the services as a solution are visible to him or her.

2.2. The Quality Features of Location-Based

Emergency Services

A classic definition of service quality is that it is “a judgment, or attitude, relating to the superiority of the service” (Parasuraman et al., 1988, p. 16). The quality is, therefore, a result of personal subjective understanding and evaluation of the merits of the service. In the context of emergency management, individuals may not always have comprehensive knowledge about the attributes of LBS in such context or the capabilities of the services for emergencies. Consequently, individuals may rely on indirect or inaccurate measures to judge such attributes. Therefore, there is a need to create verifiable direct measurements in order to present the subjective quality (perceived) in an objective way (determinable dimensions) in order to examining the impact of the quality features of LBS on people’s opinions towards utilising the services for EM.

The quality of electronic services (e-ser­vices) has been discerned by several research­ers as a multifaceted concept with different dimensions proposed for different service types (Zeithamletal., 2002; Zhang&Prybutok, 2005). Unfortunately, in the context of LBS there is no existing consummate set of dimensions that can be employed to measure the impact of LBS quality features on people’s acceptance of the services. Nonetheless, a set by Liljander et al., (2002) can serve as a good candidate for this purpose. The set of Lilj ander et al., was adapted from the well-known work of Parasuraman et al., (1988); the SERVQUAL model, but they redesigned the model to accurately reflect the quality measurements of e-services. The dimensions of Liljander et al., (2002) include reliability, responsiveness, customisation, as­surance/trust, and user interface.

Since LBS belongs to the family of e-ser­vices, most of the aforementioned dimensions in Liljander’s et al., model are highly pertinent and can be utilised to the benefit of this research. In addition, as the dimensions are highly adaptable to capture new media (Liljander et al., 2002) then it is expected that these dimensions would be capable of explaining people’s evaluation towards the introduction ofLBS into the modern emergency management solutions. Moreover, the few number of these dimensions are expected to provide a parsimonious yet reliable approach to study the impact of LBS quality features on people’s opinions without the need to employ larger scales such as Zeithaml’s et al., (2000), which comprises eleven dimensions, making it almost impractical to be employed along with other theorised constructs in any proposed conceptual model.

The interpretation of the reliability concept follows Kaynama and Black (2000), Zeithaml et al., (2000) and Yang et al., (2003) definitions as the accuracy and currency of the product information. For LBS to be considered reli­able, the services need to be delivered with the best possible accurate state and within the promised time frame (Liljander et al., 2002). This is highly relevant to emergency situations, taking into account that individuals are most likely on the move and often in time-critical circumstances that always demand accurate and current services.

Since it is reasonable to postulate that the success of LBS utilisation in emergency situa­tions depends on the ability of the government, as the provider of the service, to disseminate the service information to a large number of people in a timely fashion, and due to the fact that fast response to changing situations, or to peoples’ emergent requests, is considered as providing timely information to them then timeliness is closely related to responsiveness (Lee, 2005). Therefore, investigating the responsiveness of LBS would also be relevant in this context.

Liljander’s et al., (2002) user interface and customisation dimensions are not explic­itly pertinent to EM. The dimension of User interface comprises factors such as aesthetics, something that cannot actually be relevant to an emergency situation. Customisation refers to the state where information is presented in a tailored format to the user. This can be done for and by the user. As LBS are customised based on the location of the recipient and the type of information being sent to the user then customisation is already an intrinsic quality in the core features of these services.

Therefore, the service quality dimensions that are expected to impact on people’s accep­tance of LBS for EM include:

1. Perceived currency: the perceived qual­ity of presenting up-to-the-minute service information during emergency situations;

2. Perceived accuracy: individual’s percep­tion about the conformity of LBS with its actual attributes of content, location, and timing;

3. Perceived responsiveness: individual’s perception of receiving a prompt service (Parasuraman et al., 1988; Liljander et al., 2002; Yang et al., 2003).

Although perceived service quality is a representation of a person’s subjective ex­pectations of LBS, and not necessarily a true interpretation of the actual attributes of the service, it is expected nonetheless that these perceptions would convey an accepted degree of quality the prospective user anticipates in LBS, given the fact that limited knowledge about the actual quality dimensions are available to them in the real world.

It could be posited that an individual’s perception of how useful LBS are in emergen­cies can be highly influenced by the degree to which he or she perceives the services to be accurate, current and responsive. Here, the conceptual model follows the same rationale of TAM, which postulates perceived ease of use as a direct determinant of the perceived usefulness. Perceived ease of use is defined as “the degree to which an individual believes that using a particular system would be free of physical and mental effort” (Davis, 1989, p. 320). It is justifiable therefore to postulate that ease of use is related to the technical qual­ity features of LBS since the evaluation of an individual to the service easiness is highly associated with the convenient design of the service itself. This explains why ease of use has been conceived before by several researchers as one of the dimensions of the service quality (Zeithaml et al., 2002; Yang et al., 2003; Zhang & Prybutok, 2005).

Building upon the mentioned arguments and following the trails of TAM, LBS quality features of currency, accuracy and responsive­ness are theorised in the conceptual model as direct determinants of the perceived usefulness and, accordingly, the following propositions are defined:

Proposition P2a: There is a positive relation­ship between the perceived currency of location-based services and the perceived usefulness of the services for emergency management;

Proposition P2b: There is a positive relation­ship between the perceived accuracy of location-based services and the perceived usefulness of the services for emergency management;

Proposition P2c: There is a positive relation­ship between the perceived responsive­ness of location-based services and the perceived usefulness of the services for emergency management.

2.3. Risks Associated with Using Location-Based Emergency Services

Risk of varying types exists on a daily basis in a human’s life. In the extreme situations, such as emergencies and disasters, perceptions of risk stem from the fact that the sequence of events and magnitude of the outcome are largely unknown or cannot be totally controlled. If one takes into account that risky situations generally affect the confidence of people in technology (Im et al., 2008), then the decision of an individual to accept LBS for EM might be influenced by his or her intuition that these electronic services could be easily disrupted since the underlying infrastructure may suffer heavily in severe conditions usually associated with such situations, especially in large-scale disasters. A telling example is Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, which caused serious dis­ruptions throughout New Orleans, Louisiana, and rendered inoperable almost every piece of public and private infrastructure in the city. As a result, uncertainty about the intensity of extreme situations coupled with their unfore­seeable contingencies may have long-term implications on one’s perceptions towards the use of all technologies, including LBS, in life- threatening situations, such as emergencies.

Since it is practically rational to believe that individuals would perceive different types of risk in emergencies, then it might be highly difficult to examine particular facets of risk as being separate to one another since they can all be inextricably intertwined. Therefore, follow­ing the theoretical justification of Pavlou (2003), perceived risk is theorised in the conceptual model as a high-order unidimensional concept.

Perceived risk is defined as the individual’s belief of the potential loss and the adverse consequences of using LBS in emergencies and the probability that these consequences may occur if the services are used. Bearing in mind the high uncertainty that is usually associated with such events, this paper puts forward the following proposition:

Proposition P3: The risks perceived in using location-based services for emergency management have a negative influence on the perceived usefulness of the services.

2.4. People’s Trust in Location- Based Emergency Services

Trust has long been regarded as an important aspect of human interactions and their mutual relationships. Basically, any intended interac­tion between two parties proactively requires an element of trust predicated on the degree of certainty in one’s expectations or beliefs of the other’s trustworthiness (Mayer et al., 1995;

Li, 2008). Uncertainty in e-services, including LBS, leads individuals to reason about the capabilities of the services and their expected performance, which eventually brings them to either trust the services by willingly accept to use them or distrust the services by simply reject to use them. In emergencies, individuals may consider the possible risks associated with LBS before using this kind of services. There­fore, individuals are likely to trust the services and engage in a risk taking relationship if they perceive the benefits of LBS outweigh the risks. However, if high levels of risk are perceived, then it is most likely that individuals do not have enough trust in the services and, therefore, will not engage in a risk-taking behaviour by using them (Mayer et al., 1995). Consequently, it could be posited here that trust in LBS is a pivotal determinant of accepting the services, especially in emergency situations where great uncertainty is always present.

Trust has generally been defined as the belief that allows a person to willingly become vulnerable to the trustee after having taken the characteristics of the trustee into consideration, whether the trustee is another person, a product, a service, an institution or a group of people (McKnight & Chervany, 2001). In the context of LBS, the definition encompasses trust in the service provider (i.e. government in col­laboration with telecommunications carriers) and trust in the services and their underlying infrastructure. This definition is in agreement with the generic model of trust in e-services, which encompasses two types of trust: trust in the government agency controlling and provid­ing the service and trust in the technology and underlying infrastructure through which the service is provided (Tan & Thoen, 2001; Carter & Bélanger, 2005; Horkoffet al., 2006).

Since the willingness to use the services can be regarded as an indication that the person has taken into account the characteristics of both the services and the provider of the services, including any third parties in between, then it is highly plausible to say that investigating trust propensity in the services would provide a prediction of trust in both LBS and their provider. Some could reasonably argue that trust should be examined with the proposition that the person knows or, at least, has a presumption of knowledge about the services, their usefulness and the potential risks associated with them. Nonetheless, it should be noted here that trust is, ipso facto, a subjective interpretation of the trustworthiness of the services, given the limited knowledge of the actual usage of LBS in the domain of emergency management in the real world.

Despite the general consensus of the ex­istence of a mutual relationship between trust and risk, the two concepts should be investi­gated separately when examining their impact on the acceptance of LBS since both usually show a different set of antecedents (Junglas & Spitzmuller, 2006). Trust and perceived risks are essential constructs when uncertainty is present (Mayer et al., 1995). However, each of the two has a different type of relationship with uncertainty. While uncertainty augments the risk perceptions of LBS, trust reduces the individual’s concerns regarding the possible negative consequences of using the services, thus alleviating uncertainty around their per­formance (Morgan & Hunt, 1994; Nicolaou & McKnight, 2006).

Therefore, as trust in LBS lessens the uncer­tainty associated with the services, thus reduc­ing the perceptions of risk, this paper theorises that perceived risk is negatively related to an individual’s trust in LBS. This is in line with a large body of previous empirical research, which supports the influence of trust on the perceptions of risk (Gefen et al., 2003). Furthermore, by reducing uncertainty trust is assumed to create a positive perspective regarding the usefulness of the services and provide expectations of an acceptable level of performance. Accordingly, the following propositions are defined:

Proposition P4: Trust in location-based ser­vices positively influences the perceived usefulness of the services for emergency management;

Proposition P5: Trust in location-based ser­vices negatively impacts the risks perceived from using the services for emergency management.

2.5. Privacy Concerns

Pertaining to Location-Based Emergency Services

In the context of LBS, privacy pertains mainly to the locational information of the person and the degree of control he or she exercises over this type of information. Location information is regarded as highly sensitive data that when collected over a period of time or combined with other personal information can infer a great deal about a person’s movements and in turn reveal more than just one’s location. Indeed, Clarke and Wigan (2008) noted that knowing the past and present locations of a person could, amongst other things, enable the discovery of the person’s behavioural patterns in a way that could be used, for example, by governments to create a suspicion, or by the private sector to conduct target marketing.

Privacy concerns could originate when individuals become uncomfortable of the per­ception that there is a constant collection of their personal location information, the idea of its perennial availability to other parties, and the belief that they have incomplete control over the collection, the extent, the duration, the timing or the amount of data being collected about them.

The traditional commercial use of LBS, where a great level of detail about the service application are regularly available for the end user, may not create much sensitivity towards privacy since in most cases the explicit consent of the user is a prerequisite for initiating these services. This is completely true in the markets of the United States, Europe and Australia (Gow, 2005; Code of Practice of Passive Loca­tion Services in the UK, 2006; The Australian Government: Attorney General’s Department, 2008). However, in emergencies pertinent government departments and law enforcement agencies have the power to temporarily waive the person’s right to privacy based on the as­sumption that the consent is already implied when collecting location information in such situations (Gow, 2005; Pura, 2005).

The implications of waiving away the consent, even temporarily, may have long-term adverse effects on people’s perspectives towards the services in general. It also has the potential to raise a debate on to what extent individuals are truly willing to relinquish their privacy in exchange for a sense of continuous security (Perusco et al., 2006). The debate could be easily augmented in the current political climate of the so-called “war on terror” where governments have started to bestow additional powers on themselves to monitor, track, and gather personal location information in a way that never could have been justified before (Perusco & Michael, 2007). As a result, privacy concerns are no exception to emergency management.

Four privacy concerns have been identified previously by Smith et al. (1996). They are col­lection, unauthorised secondary use, errors in storage, and improper access of the collected data. These concerns are also pertinent to LBS (Junglas & Spitzmuller, 2006). Collection is defined as the concern that extensive amounts of location information or other personal identifi­able information would be collected when using LBS for emergency management. Unauthorised secondary use is defined as the concern that LBS information is collected for the purposes of emergency management but ultimately is used for other purposes and without explicit consent from the individual. Errors in storage describe the concern that the procedures taken against accidental or deliberate errors in stor­ing location information are inadequate. And improper access is the concern that the stored location information is accessed by parties who do not have the authority to do so.

Two particular privacy concerns, collection and unauthorised secondary use, are integrated into the conceptual model. These concerns are expected to have a direct negative impact on the perceived usefulness of LBS. Other prominent constructs of trust and perceived risk are assumed to have mediating effects on the relationship between privacy concerns and perceived usefulness since both constructs (i.e. trust and perceived risk) could be reasonably regarded as outcomes of the assessment of the individual of the privacy concerns. For instance, if a person does not have much concern about the privacy of his or her location information then it is most likely he or she trusts the services, thus perceiving LBS to be beneficial and useful. On the other hand, if the perceptions of privacy concerns were high then the individual would not probably engage in a risk taking behaviour, resulting in lower perceptions of the usefulness of the services.

Accordingly, perceived privacy concerns are theorised in the conceptual model as direct determinants of both trust and perceived risk. While perceived privacy concerns are postu­lated to have a negative impact on the trust in the services, they are theorised to have a positive influence on the risks perceived from using location-based services for emergency management.

Considering the above mentioned argu­ments, the following propositions are made:

Proposition P6a: Collection, as a perceived privacy concern, negatively impacts the perceived usefulness of location-based services for emergency management;

Proposition P6b: Unauthorised secondary use, as a perceived privacy concern, nega­tively impacts the perceived usefulness of location-based services for emergencies;

Proposition P7a: Collection, as a perceived privacy concern, has a negative impact on trust in location-based services;

Proposition P7b: Unauthorised secondary use, as a perceived privacy concern, has a negative impact on trust in location-based services;

Proposition P8a: The risks perceived from us­ing location-based services for emergency management are positively associated with the perceived privacy concern of collection;

Proposition P8b: The risks perceived from us­ing location-based services for emergency management are positively associated with the perceived privacy concern of unautho­rised secondary use.


The determinants of LBS acceptance are inte­grated into a conceptual model that extends and builds upon the established theory of reasoned action (TRA), applied in a technology-specific adaptation as a technology acceptance model (TAM). See Figure 1.

Figure 1. The conceptual model of location-based emergency services acceptance

TAM postulates that usage or adoption behaviour is predicted by the individual’s inten­tion to use location-based emergency services. The behavioural intention is determined by the individual’s attitude towards using the services. Both the attitude and intention are postulated as the main predictors of acceptance. The at­titude, in turn, is influenced by two key beliefs: perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness of LBS. TAM also grants a basis for investi­gating the influence of external factors on its internal beliefs, attitude, and intention (Davis etal., 1989).

As illustrated in the model in Figure 1, a set of propositions that reflect the theoretical relationships between the determinants of ac­ceptance are presented as arrowed lines that start from the influential factor and end into the dependent construct. The theorised factors supplement TAM’s original set and are totally in agreement with its theoretical structural formulation. That is, all of the hypothesised effects of the factors would only be exhibited on the internal constructs (i.e. attitude and inten­tion) through the full mediation of the internal beliefs (i.e. perceived usefulness or perceived ease of use).


A pilot survey was conducted in order to test the reliability of the model’s constructs. IS literature places great emphasis on the importance of the piloting stage as part of the model’s development (Baker, 1999; Teijlingen & Hundley, 2001). In essence, the pilot survey is an experimental study that aims to collect data from a small set of subjects in order to discover any defects or flaws that can be corrected, before the conceptual model is tested in a large scale survey (Baker, 1999; Zikmund, 2003).

4.1. Measurement of Constructs

To increase construct measurement reliability, most of the items in the survey, which have been tested and validated in former studies, were adapted to reflect the specific context of this research i.e. location-based services. It should be emphasised here that the use of existing items in the literature is completely a valid approach (Churchill, 1979).

The scales of TAM’s perceived useful­ness and perceived ease of use were measured based on the original scales of Davis (1989). Attitude measurement items were adopted from two studies by Agarwal and Prasad (1999) and Van der Heij den et al., (2001). Intention to use items were measured using scales adopted from Junglas and Spitzmuller (2005). Trust measure­ments were adopted from Mayer et al., (1995) and Junglas and Spitzmuller (2005). Pavlou and Gefen (2004)perceived risk items were adopted given the emphasis on emergency management. The items of the visibility construct were ad­opted from a study by Karahanna et al., (1999). The items of perceived privacy concerns were adopted from Smith et al., (1996) and Junglas and Spitzmuller (2005). The statements of perceived service qualities were not directly available but have been operationalized based on the recommendations of Churchill (1979), who suggested that each statement should express limited meaning, its dimensions should be kept simple and the wording should be straightforward.

4.2. Survey Design

The survey included an overview and introduction of the application of location-based services in emergency management. In addition, the survey provided the participants with four vignettes. Each vignette depicted a hypothetical scenario about the possible uses of LBS applications for managing potential hazardous situations. The scenarios covered specific topics to emergencies such as an impending natural disaster, a situation where a person was par­ticularly in need of medical assistance, severe weather conditions and a national security issue. Two of the vignettes were designed to present location-based services in a favourable light, and the other two vignettes were designed to draw out the potential pitfalls and limitations of LBS in EM. Through the use of vignettes, participants were encouraged to project their true perceptions about the services while, at the same time, involved with creating a meaning related to their potential use in these events. Creating this meaningful attachment in context was very important, as it acted to inform par­ticipant responses, given the utilisation of LBS in EM is still in its nascent stages worldwide.

A self-administrated questionnaire was used to collect data from participants. A five- point Likert rating scale was used throughout the questionnaire. The survey which predominantly yielded quantitative results also included one open-ended question in order to solicit more detailed responses from the participants.

4.3. The Sample of the Pilot Survey

Six hundred pilot surveys were randomly distributed by hand, in November 2008, to households’ mailboxes in the Illawarra region and the City of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. Participants were asked to return their copies to the researcher within three weeks in the enclosed reply-paid envelope provided with the survey.

Although, this traditional approach is time- consuming and demands a lot of physical effort, it was favoured as it is more resilient to social desirability effects (Zikmund, 2003), where respondents may reply in a way they think it is more socially appropriate (Cook & Campbell, 1979). In addition, it is generally associated with high perceptions of anonymity, something that may not be completely assured or guaranteed by other methods of data collection since they tend to disclose some personal information, such as name, telephone number, email address or IP address, which may cause privacy infringements (Zikmund, 2003; Michaelidou & Dibb, 2006).

The main concern was to end up with a low response rate, an issue several researchers have noted before (Yu & Cooper, 1983; Galpin, 1987; Zikmund, 2003). Indeed, a total of 35 replies were returned, yielding an extremely low response rate of 5.8%. Two incomplete replies were excluded, leaving only 33 usable surveys for the final analysis.

Although it is a desirable goal to end up with a high response rate to have more confidence in the results, and to be able to comment on the significance of the findings (Emory & Cooper, 1991; Saunders et al., 2007), it should be noted that the pilot study’s main objective is to serve as an initial test (pretest) of the conceptual model and does not, in any away, attempt to generalise its results to a new population. Therefore, the generalisability of the findings is not an issue of contention here (Morgan & Hunt, 1994).

Nonetheless, there is much discussion in the literature of what constitutes a “good” response rate of the pilot survey; hence, its acceptable sample size. Hunt et al., (1982), for example, stated that several researchers simply recom­mended a “small” sample size, others indicated a sample size between 12 and 30 as sufficient to fulfil the requirements of the analysis. Anderson and Gerbing (1991) pretested a methodology for predicting the performance of measures in a confirmatory factor analysis with a sample size of 20. They posited the consistency of this small sample size with the general agreement between researchers that the number should be relatively small. Reynolds et al., (1993) noted that the sample size of pilot surveys is generally small when discussed in the literature, ranging from 5 to 100, an depending on the goal of the study.

The main concern, however, when as­sessing the effect of a low response rate on the validity of the survey is when taking into account the non-response bias (Cummings etal., 2001; Fowler, 2001). The bias stems from the possibility that only the sample population who are interested in the topic of the pilot survey would provide their responses back (Fowler, 2001). Nonetheless, if non-respondents’ char­acteristics are systematically similar to those of the respondents, then the non-response bias is not necessarily reduced by an increased response rate (Cummings et al., 2001).

Kanuk and Berenson (1975) in a compre­hensive literature review of the factors influenc­ing response rates to mail surveys, examined the significant differences between respondents and non-respondents, taking into account a broad range of personality traits, socio-economic and demographic characteristics. The researchers concluded that the only consistent difference was that respondents tend to be better educated.

Since respondents of this pilot survey were of all levels of education, as illustrated in Table 2, where for example, 7 respondents had a secondary education while 7 had post­graduate degrees, representing the low-level educated and the well-educated population, then it is argued that non-respondents did not differ significantly from the survey’s responders, suggesting that non-response bias was not present, and therefore, low response rate is not an issue here. Thus, the pilot survey with its low response rate, and for which no systematic differences between respondents and non-respondents exist is considered valid for the analysis.

Table 2. Respondents education

The traditional benchmarks in mail survey studies that positioned a 50 percent response rate as adequate and 70 percent as very good (Babbie, 1998) should be reappraised. Current trends of thinking reject these unconditional criterion levels and assertively demand for a contextual approach where response rate is considered in conjunction with the goal of the study, its design and the nature of its sample (Fife-Schaw, 2000; Fowler, 2001).

4.4. Reliability of the Measurements

Reliability expresses the extent to which the measures in the instrument are free of random errors, thus yielding similar consistent results if repeated (Yin, 2003; Zikmund, 2003). Reli­ability reflects the internal consistency of the scale items measuring the same construct for the selected data. Hence, it is basically an evaluation of the measurement accuracy (Straub, 1989). Nunnally and Bernstein (1994) recommended the calculation of Cronbach’s alpha coefficients to assess reliability. Straub (1989) suggested an alpha value of 0.80 as the lowest accepted threshold. However, Nunnally and Bernstein (1994) stated that 0.60 is accepted for newly developed measures, otherwise, 0.70 should serve as the lowest cut-off value.

The common threshold value of 0.7 was selected as the minimum acceptable level based on the recommendations of Nunnally and Bern­stein (1994) and Agarwal and Karahanna (2000). The results ofthe analysis are presented in Table 3, revealing acceptable values for nearly all measurements except perceived accuracy which was found to be 0.684. Accordingly, one highly complex item was excluded and the revised construct was put again through another round of validation, after which a higher acceptable coefficient of 0.724 was yielded.

Table 3. Cronbach’s alpha reliability statistics

Another reliability scale assessment, through the computation of composite reli­ability, was also conduted. It is similar in interpretation to Cronbach’s alpha test, but it applies the actual loadings of the items and does not assume weight equivalency among them (Chin, 1998). Moreover, Raykov (1997) showed that Cronbach’s test may under-estimate the reliability of the congeneric measures, leav­ing the researcher with lower-bound estimates of the true reliability scores. As illustrated in Table 4, the results show that all scores far exceed the 0.7 recommended threshold (Hair et al., 2006). Consequently, these results bring more confidence in the conceptual model and its constructs as they have demonstrated high internal consistency under the evaluation of two separate reliability tests.

Table 4. Composite reliability statistics

Table 4. Composite reliability statistics

5. Conclusion and Implications

Despite the large body of research that has been written to augment our understanding of the determinants of acceptance and adoption of location-based services in various usage contexts, the scarcity of theoretical and empiri­cal studies that examine people’s acceptance of LBS in the realm of emergencies is noted. This is clearly a gap in the current research in which this study makes a significant contribu­tion. This paper is a discussion of unexplored determinants in relation to user acceptance of location-based emergency services. These include the visibility of LBS applications in the context of emergency management, the privacy of individuals and their perceived concerns regarding extensive collection and unauthorised secondary use of the collected data by governments, risks as associated with using LBS for EM, trust in the services and in the service provider, and the current, accurate and responsive quality features of the services being offered for emergency management.

This paper proposed a conceptual model based on the aforementioned determinants that should serve as the theoretical basis for future empirical examination of acceptance. The model significantly extends and builds upon the theory of reasoned action, applied in a technology-specific adaptation as a technology acceptance model.

Although the conceptual model was built specifically to predict an individual’s acceptance of LBS for emergency management, the model can nonetheless be used as a generic candidate model in empirical studies to predict people’s acceptance of location-based services in other security usage contexts, applications, scenarios or settings. This is made possible due to the fact that all of the theorised factors of the model are highly relevant to the intrinsic characteristics of LBS. Examples of where the model would be deemed particularly useful include law enforce­ment applications, such as matters related to the surveillance implications of location-based services, and location-based evidence captures and social issues pertaining to the application of the services, such as arrest support, traffic violations or riot control.

In addition, the proposed model can be used not only to identify the predictors of acceptance but also to help the service providers to design their solutions in a way that can fairly meet the end user expectations. For instance, the model identifies perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use and perceived service quality features as expected determinants of acceptance. Once em­pirically tested, the impact of these factors can provide guidelines to developers of the services to accommodate the right service requirements that reflect acceptable performance standards for the potential users.

Finally, the application of location-based services in today’s society has the potential to raise concerns amongst users. These concerns could easily be augmented in highly sensitive settings, such as emergency management or counter-terrorism solutions. While this paper presents theoretical foundations, it is hoped the knowledge obtained here can be considered by governments and interested researchers towards the formation of developing more successful deployment and diffusion strategies for loca­tion-based emergency services globally. The purpose of this paper is to help in channelling such strategies in the right direction.


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Keywords: Acceptance, Location-Based Emergency Services, Privacy, Risk, Service Quality, Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), Trust, Visibility

Citation: Anas Aloudat, Katina Michael, "Towards a Conceptual Model of User Acceptance of Location Based Emergency Services", International Journal of Ambient Computing and Intelligence, 5(2), 17-34, April-June 2013.

Toward the regulation of ubiquitous mobile government


Mobile alerts, notifications and location-based emergency warning systems are now an established part of mobile government strategies in an increasing number of countries worldwide. In Australia the national emergency warning system (NEWS) was instituted after the tragic Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires of February 2009. NEWS has enabled the provision of public information from the government to the citizen during emergencies anywhere and any time. Moving on from traditional short message service (SMS) notifications and cell broadcasting to more advanced location-based services, this paper explores the major issues faced by government, business and society at large, toward the realization of a fully fledged emergency system for personal mobile devices. This qualitative study contains two phases: phase 1 gathered issues from the general public via an open-ended survey question, and phase 2 gathered issues from key informant interviews. The data was analyzed using qualitative content analysis techniques. The results are presented in a narrative form granting detailed insight into the main challenges faced in the deployment of a mobile government application. The complex interplay between government agencies, telecommunications carriers and the Australian public is presented, ultimately leading down a path of regulation. By using a qualitative approach it is hoped that the intimate lessons learnt in the Australian landscape can be applied to other nations considering mobile government applications. The outcome of the paper is predominantly practical providing a series of recommendations toward the successful deployment of mobile government applications.

1 Introduction

On February 7, 2009, the Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires claimed 173 lives, the worst peace-time disaster in Australia’s history. Citizenry looked on in disbelief that in such a modern society equipped with advanced technologies, so many lives were lost and a multitude more people injured given the force of the 400 raging fires. The Australian federal government responded swiftly to the tragedy by enacting an emergency declaration as an amendment to the Privacy Act 1988 on February 11, 2009. The emergency declaration now means that some government agencies, and emergency service organizations (ESOs), have access to Australia-wide consumer telecommunications details in the likely event of an emergency or during an actual emergency. Maintained by one commercial operator, the integrated public number database (IPND) is an industry-wide, commonwealth-owned database that contains all the residential and business telephone numbers, both listed and unlisted, and other subscriber information such as name, address, and the type of service delivered by each number (i.e. landline, fax, mobile, pager, etc.). During an emergency the IPND may be accessed by more than one commercial entity to assist citizens.

The Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission (VBRC) commenced on February 16, 2009 and about five months into the proceedings, the Government released a tender document to Australia’s telecommunications carriers for the supply of ubiquitous mobile technologies, infrastructure and applications that could be used during emergencies. The National Emergency Warning System (NEWS) tender was released on July 15, 2009 and following this, the request for information (RFI) for Location Based Identification of Active Mobile Handsets for Emergency Notification Purposes (phase II of NEWS) was issued on August 5, 2009. Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications carrier was awarded the contract on September 24, 2009. The NEWS applications have the ability to deliver personalized information direct to the mobile phone subscriber during an emergency, providing both warning notifications and alerts and specific directions, complementing traditional broadcasting mediums like radio and television. Despite the call for the deployment of ubiquitous mobile government applications in the Australian emergency management sector since as early as 2005, it took the tragic loss of life in Victoria for the Federal and State governments to make a decision to go forward with a homogeneous national emergency warning system (NEWS) with location-based features entering in phase II of deployment.

Only than two months before the Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires, the authors began to collect qualitative data on the potential deployment of location-based services in emergency management in Australia by calling on key informants to share their experiences and insights about the future prospects of location-based emergency warnings. On November 25, 2008 an in depth semi-structured interview was conducted with an official from the Victorian State Government. It was quickly realized that no matter how innovative the business model, that the complexity of a national emergency warning system with location-based service capabilities meant that operational and non-operational stakeholders would have to work together closely toward a long-term mobile solution that could be utilized by relevant government authorities to communicate with people in affected zones of natural and human-made hazards. The government official interviewed described the need for a ubiquitous emergency warning system with a degree of urgency that was to play out in that summer. So what went wrong, especially when the need for such a system was evident? Why did it take so long for such a mobile government application to be deployed? What were the barriers that needed to be overcome for such a practical solution to be instituted? The interplay between government agencies, telecommunications carriers and supporting value chain members, and the Australian people would ultimately lead down a path of regulation. This paper explores the most important issues faced by government, business and society at large, toward the realization of a fully fledged location-based emergency warning system for personal mobile devices. By using a qualitative approach it is hoped that the lessons learnt in the Australian landscape can be applied to other nations as a foundation model towards deployment of mobile government applications in related contexts.

This paper is divided into five sections. Section 1 describes the methodology that was adopted, the main sources of data, and how data was collected and analyzed. Section 2 describes the need for location-based emergency warnings and Sect. 3 describes the legislative impact of these services being utilized and liability related issues such as responsibility and accountability with respect to the government itself and telecommunications carriers. Section 4 is about the prospective barriers facing governments and carriers who wish to roll out a national emergency warning system and the fifth and final section provides recommendations toward successful deployment.

2 Methodology

2.1 Case study: Australia’s National Emergency Warning System

A case study of mobile government applications in the context of emergency management was conducted in Australia with a focus on the utilization of location-based services for emergency warning and notification systems. Figure 1 depicts a timeline of important events leading up to the deployment of NEWS. The study was conducted between 2008 and 2009 and captures sentiment in Australia both before and after the Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires. Data for this case study was collected in a two phased approach.

Fig. 1 Australia’s Path toward a National Emergency Warning System: a timeline of events

2.2 Phase 1: open-ended survey question to general public

In Phase 1, a ten page questionnaire which contained a single open-ended question was administered in 2008 to the general public providing an opportunity for written responses which were digitized, collated into a database and then analyzed.

The primary goal of the open-ended question technique was to understand the issues pertaining to the utilization of the location-based emergency service as perceived by the general public. This technique is particularly useful when there is a need to start with a broader exploration of a little-known phenomenon [1]. The comments included personal opinions, remarks, concerns and real life experiences that about 60 of the 300 respondents were willing to share.

2.3 Phase 2: operational and non-operational stakeholder interviewees

In Phase 2, nine full-length semi-structured interviews were conducted with key informants who were members of operational and non-operational stakeholder entities and highly regarded within the Australian landscape of mobile government for emergency management. The interviews were transcribed, edited, and qualitatively analyzed. The use of qualitative methods, such as interviews, has been suggested for exploratory research when little is known about the area of study and when there is a need to identify unanticipated or new issues [2, 3]. Independent experts with a wealth of knowledge and expertise, officials from Australian emergency service organizations, policy makers from Australian government departments pertinent to emergency management arrangements and policies, and representatives from the Australian mobile telecommunications industry were approached to participate in the study. The main criterion for approaching each potential interviewee was their expertise. Several government departments and organizations related to emergency management were also approached. The intention was to end up with a good cross section of diverse profiles in the location-based services (LBS) value chain that could give a holistic view of Australia’s national emergency warning system.

2.3.1 Description of key informants

Nine interviews were conducted with key informants coming from both operational and non-operational stakeholders. Interviewee 1 [Vic-Gov] was a member of the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner in the Department of Justice in the state of Victoria. The Office provides leadership in emergency management for Victoria, with specific responsibility for ensuring the delivery of efficient, equitable and integrated emergency services. The Office oversees more effective utilization of the common resources of the emergency services and encouraging and facilitating cooperation between all agencies before, during and after an emergency [4]. It is important to note that this interview took place only a few months prior to Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria. Interviewee 2 [expert A] is an independent expert with more than 40 years of experience over several domains including teaching in emergency management and being an emergency service officer with the State Emergency Services (SES). Interviewee 3 [SES] is employed by the State Emergency Service in New South Wales. The SES is an emergency and rescue service dedicated to assisting the community in times of crisis. It is made up almost entirely of volunteers, with 226 units located throughout the state of New South Wales (NSW) alone. Its main responsibilities are for flood and storm operations [5]. Interviewee 4, [Whispir-Rep] was a representative of the Whispir company, an Australian company providing a high availability messaging platform that enables the instant and automatic invocation of communications across web, email, SMS and voice channels, from any location including from a mobile handset [6]. Interviewee 5 [expert B] is an independent consultant from the Australian Capital Territory. He is a well-known consultant who has a professional background working as an advisor on large-scale systems for the Australian Government including the formulation of national internet ICT polices.

Interviewee 6 [expert C] is an independent expert from the state of New South Wales with a telecommunications engineering career spanning more than 30 years. His work has contributed to the development of service creation environments for Intelligent Networks (IN) with British Telecom Research Laboratories, and later with Telstra. He has also worked on several worldwide projects developing a range of solutions with a focus on wireless IN services and the development of various cellular location systems for emergency and commercial services. In addition, he was amongst the scientists who were responsible for shaping, initiating and launching E911 in the United States. Interviewee 7 [expert D] is an independent expert from the state of Queensland. His current work involves the development of new innovative technologies. He has extensive experience in Research and Development (R&D) of internet and mobile technologies. He has research interests in emergency messaging standards, new technologies and applications for emergency messaging and national emergency warning systems. Interviewee 8 [expert E] is a consultant who works for a large law firm in Australia. He is a communications specialist with more than 25 years of experience in technology, regulatory and business strategy in telecommunications and broadcasting. He has been involved with a number of significant commercial regulatory projects in the telecommunications sector in Australia and abroad. He has provided advice to Telstra, Bell Canada, the GSM Association, State and Federal Government and international organizations such as the World Bank. The final interviewee is a representative from the Redcoal Company. Redcoal is Australia’s leading SMS messaging and mobile phone tracking solutions provider, delivering services across different industry sectors and government. Redcoal’s SMS and mobile phone tracking solutions are rebranded and resold by the Optus Network. The Optus operator is the second largest telecommunications carrier and information services company in Australia [7]. A summary of the nine interviews and their background is presented in Table 1.

Table 1 List of interviewees used in the data collection phase

ID Interviewee/ Pseudonym Full title Interview date

1 Vic-Gov The Department of Justice—Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner (The State of Victoria)* Nov 25, 2008

2 Expert A Independent expert (The State of New South Wales) July 13, 2009

3 SES State Emergency Services (The State of New South Wales)* Aug 4, 2009

4 Whispir-Rep A representative from the Whispir Company (The State of Victoria)* Aug 12, 2009

5 Expert B Independent expert (The Australian Capital Territory) Aug 28, 2009

6 Expert C Independent expert (The State of New South Wales) Sept 23, 2009

7 Expert D Independent expert (The State of Queensland) Sept 29, 2009

8 Expert E Independent expert (The State of Queensland) Oct 14, 2009

9 Redcoal-Rep A representative from the Redcoal Company (The State of New South Wales)* Oct 22, 2009 *Views obtained here are those of the representatives and are not necessarily expressing those of their respective offices, departments or companies

2.4 The qualitative analysis strategy

Qualitative analysis refers to the process that requires the identification of recurring ideas, patterns of beliefs and salient themes from collected data and the attempt to demonstrate support for them [8]. Patton [9] defines qualitative analysis as the challenging process of transforming data into findings, but more importantly, for it to make sense. Patton described the transformation process as “reducing the volume of raw information, sifting trivia from significance, identifying significant patterns and constructing a framework for communicating the essence of what the data reveal” [9]. Similarly, Marshall and Rossman [1] regard qualitative analysis as the process of bringing structure and meaning to the mass of the collected data, and accordingly, postulate that the best approach to the analysis of the data is “reading, reading, and reading once more through the data, forcing the researcher to become familiar with those data in intimate ways. People, events, and quotes sift constantly through the researcher’s mind” [1]. However, in order to guide the qualitative analysis to ensure validity in the presentation of results, the transcribed interviews were parsed together through an automated content analysis tool. Figure 2 shows the main themes as determined by the Leximancer tool [10] after several interactive manual interventions to: (i) clean the auto-generated thesaurus list of words (e.g. singular vs. plural, merging synonyms or like terms, and the merging together of words into short phrases like “location based services”); (ii) delete irrelevant terms that may have been used frequently but in essence detracted from the main themes of the study (e.g. “should”, “think”); (iii) add words to the visual concept map from the auto-generated thesaurus that were considered significant in meaning by the researchers but may not have featured in the most highly ranked concepts; and (iv) consider at which level of granularity to view the concept map to best understand the inner forces at play between the major actors in the network. These themes were used to provide core issues that were explored in the narrative thematically. Issues raised in the open-ended response in the survey were manually grouped into themes and supporting literature found to validate their inclusion in the narrative (Table 2).

2.4.1 Interactive model of analysis

In Miles and Huberman’s [8] interactive model of analysis, the qualitative analysis is an iterative step that consists of a set of activities, including data collection, data reduction, data display and conclusion drawing. The textual data of the interviews went through preparation processes to make it ready for the analysis. The audio-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and each transcription was kept in a separate word document for easy reference. The hand-written interview notes, which were taken by the researchers themselves in each interview, were used as an additional source of information. In a similar fashion, all the comments from the open-ended survey question were typed and then aggregated and kept in one document, as all comments represented the perspective of a single distinct stakeholder of the locationbased mobile phone emergency service (i.e. the prospective user of the service). Initial data coding, including preliminary data reduction processes were performed to prepare the data for analysis. Developing concepts is regarded a way of data reduction [25] and enlisting the support of Leximancer was very helpful in reducing the volume of interview data to displaying correlated concepts into more focused themes.

Fig. 2 Leximancer concept map showing important issues forthcoming from interviews. The larger the concept the greater its importance to the study

Displaying data is one of the major ways to validate the qualitative analysis [8]. This activity is concerned with organizing, compressing and assembling information into a more readable format from the data’s voluminous, bulky and dispersed original state [25]. The qualitative data can be displayed in different forms such as charts, diagrams or concept maps. The aim of the final stage which is drawing and verifying conclusions is required to generate a meaningful and coherent picture of the data [25]. Miles and Huberman [8] noted that conclusions take place, more or less, concurrently with other stages in the content analysis and can be discerned early in the analysis, although at that time they are vague and not truly developed. In all cases, drawing conclusions is typically regarded the most difficult stage to perform amongst all the stages of the analysis since it involves developing propositions, verifying these propositions, drawing solid conclusions and confirming the obtained findings [8, 25].

3 The need to introduce location-based emergency services in Australia

Australia’s future need to utilize the location-based mobile phone service within its national emergency warning system fundamentally stems from the practical characteristics of the service, which complement other channels of safety information. As stipulated by Expert A, the broadcast media do a very good job of communicating emergency information to the public but there is no guarantee that information is received by individual persons, especially if they have no desire to keep informed at any given time period. Expert C pointed out that everybody does not listen to the radio. The Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires, more than any other single event in Australia’s modern history can be used to illustrate the need for advanced communication services. As Expert A reflected, Australians questioned where the notifications were and why so many people had to die: “[t]he notifications were being [sent] out in the normal fashion by radio, television, but because people were outside, it [did] not necessarily mean that they tuned in to those radio stations, or the television ...” It took the deaths of 173 Australians during a tragic event for the government to consider more innovative ways to communicate with the community before, after and during an event. There is now an “expectation by the community to be informed [in a] timely [fashion], rather than in a haphazard way” (Expert A). One way forward is to make use of the mobile phone, available technology already in the hands of the majority of Australian adults, which can provide crucial emergency information dependent on where the mobile phone is located. While you cannot guarantee that people will receive time-critical information via their mobile phone (e.g. it may be turned off), at least authorities are making “use of available technology to reduce the likelihood of people not knowing and increasing the likelihood of them being informed” (Expert A).

Other interviewees also acknowledged the shortcomings of the current information warning channels in Australia and the need to utilize location-based public warning notifications. Expert D was categorical in his assessment: “I definitely think we do need location-based warnings. There is no doubt about that.” While making use of landline billing address details for emergency notifications was one possible way forward using the legacy Integrated Public Number Database (IPND), Expert D preferred a warning system that could detect people roaming and provide customized location-based information. Vic-Gov also noted that they ultimately wanted a system that could be deployed during the largest and most troubling types of emergencies.


Table 2 Public acceptance issues raised in the questionnaire and supported by literature

Factor identified in open-ended response

Academic description

Sourced in the literature

Attitude. The individual positive or negative feelings toward using the location-based emergency service. Fishbein and Ajzen [11] Behavioral intention The individual decision to engage or not to engage in using the location-based emergency service. Fishbein and Ajzen [11] Trust The belief that allows a potential user of the location-based emergency service to willingly become vulnerable to the use-case outcome of the service, having taken the characteristics of the service into consideration, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control the service or the service provider. Mayer et al. [12], McKnight and Chervany [13] Perceived risks The individual belief of the potential loss and the adverse consequences of using the location-based emergency service, and the probability that these consequences may occur if the service is used. Pavlou and Gefen [14], Heijden et al. [15] Perceived usefulness The individual perception that using the location-based emergency service is useful. Davis et al. [16] Perceived ease of use The degree to which the prospective user expects the location-based emergency service to be free of effort in terms of usage. Davis et al. [16] Visibility The extent to which the actual use of the location-based mobile phone emergency service is observed to its potential user. Agarwal and Prasad [17] Perceived service quality The individual global judgment relating to the superiority of the location-based emergency service. Parasuraman et al. [18] Perceived currency The prospective user perception of receiving up-to-the-minute service information during emergencies. Zeithaml et al. [19], Yang et al. [20] Perceived accuracy The prospective user perception about the conformity of the location-based emergency service with its actual attributes of content, location, and timing. Zeithaml et al. [19], Yang et al. [20] Perceived responsiveness The prospective user perception of receiving a prompt service in the case of an emergency. Parasuraman et al. [18], Liljander et al. [21], Yang et al. [20] Privacy concerns as perceived by the prospective user The individual concerns regarding the level of control by others over personal identifiable information. Stone et al. [22] Collection The concern that extensive amounts of location information or other personal identifiable data will be collected when using the location-based emergency service. Smith et al. [23], Junglas and Spitzmuller [24] Unauthorized use The concern that the location-based emergency service information is collected for emergency purposes but will be used for other purposes without explicit consent from the individual. Smith et al. [23], Junglas and Spitzmuller [24]


Three months prior to the Victorian Bushfires, a Vic-Gov representative contacted the authors, desperately seeking to put in place a system that could be used to notify individuals anywhere they were during large-scale emergencies in order to save more lives. For Vic-Gov, traditional forms of media were passive. From their assessment of a range of technologies that were nationally consistent, Vic-Gov was convinced by the power of the mobile phone and especially its ubiquity, not requiring an individual to be anchored anywhere to receive the given information. Vic-Gov stated: “People have, invariably, got their mobile phones with them. Usually, they are turned on. And so, if that individual with an active handset is within an area that has been affected by something there is a very high likelihood that we will get a message to them, informing them that we know that they are in the area and we can point them to other sources of information. So, they do not need to be anchored to anything. It is the closest [thing] to somebody’s eyes and ears.” For the State Emergency Services (SES) the location-based mobile phone service can be considered yet another telephony-based channel to get a message to the public. SES highlighted the potential of the mobile phone to get people’s attention, especially if a disaster was to hit late at night when people were asleep.

Written comments from the survey respondents also reflected the community’s expectation toward the introduction of the location-based mobile phone emergency service in Australia in the near future. For the greater part comments focused around the need to have the location of an emergency caller automatically identified and tracked. One respondent noted that when calling emergency services 15–30 seconds “are wasted in providing the patient/caller location/address. It would be a great time/life saver technique if LBS is properly implemented by service providers as the police, hospitals and car-service providers as NRMA.” Numerous respondents thought that implementing such capability would be a good idea, practical, and very beneficial given Australia’s history of natural disasters. Some were even prepared to subscribe to such a service for up-to-the-minute information. Beyond the obvious advantages of location-based notifications via mobile phones, there is one segment of the community that would particularly benefit from the introduction of such warning systems. Vic-Gov noted that such a system would be highly beneficial to the profoundly deaf and hearing impaired which affect one in six Australians: “[i]f these people were in an area where they had been affected, they would receive a text message ... So, by default, I guess, we have addressed a section of the population who struggle to receive [comprehensible] notifications ...” Expert A showed his disappointment at the lack of urgency shown by some stakeholders, especially government, when he said: “[i]t is about time we had these systems in place. We see money being wasted in a lot of areas that are not as important as providing safety to our communities. And for a long, long time, disaster management and all those type of activities have not been at the forefront of government action. They tend to wait until after something happens.” The Redcoal-Rep echoed similar sentiments when he noted that it generally takes tragedies for a reaction to come from government, and only then when it is a vote winning issue.

4 Legislative grounds for location-based emergency systems

The introduction of a comprehensive legislative framework which would regulate the utilization of location-based mobile phone emergency services was a recurring theme which emerged from the expert interviews. In Australia at least, it was found that without a legislative framework in place the introduction of a location-enabled emergency system would be somewhat unlikely. The lag between the introduction of new enabling technology and the establishment of legislation to support that technology’s capabilities can be stifling to the development of any new product or process. SES identified the government as lagging behind in clearly providing protection around the governance and use of location-based emergency notifications to all Australians. The emphasis is on the deployment of “blanket coverage” technology which is where the government needs to get started on legislating, according to the SES. But rather than the view that legislation comes first, and then the technology can be rolled out, in this particular mobile government case study society is evolving hand-in-hand with the technology. “Location-based services can be protected by legislation and need to be protected by legislation... You have to evolve your legal framework along with the technological underpinnings of the society it involves” (Expert C).

One suggestion by Expert C was to draft legislation associated with the emergency warning system under Emergency Management Australia, via consultations through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). “Whether it is an emergency warning system under a federal agency’s control or whether it is a social networking site under a commercial operator’s control, those entities, to the extent that they are governed by our jurisdiction’s legislation, should be constrained in terms of what they can do with that location information” (Expert C). And it is here that location-based emergency warnings differ from traditional carrier-based LBS solutions. In the government context, we are not referring to a subset of consumers who opt-in to using a paid subscriber service but to all people who may be in an affected zone, including citizens and non-citizens alike. Expert E also noted the importance of an agreement between the individual to whom location information applies and the provider of that application. The agreement should be protected by law and should clearly identify “what that location information can and cannot be used for”, ensuring that the location data “not be used for any other purpose.”

The introduction of early warning systems by their very nature cannot be put in place without some kind of a legislative or regulatory imperative. For Expert E, the fact that location based early warning systems would need to be deployed unilaterally—that is across the whole population—a liability risk would be incurred as part of any set of legislative regulations or responsibilities. The actual scope of risks and responsibilities would need to be defined but in this open-ended environmental context there would be an arbitrary amount of potential liability. “There has to be a fundamental foundation from a regulatory and a policy perspective before any of this can happen”, reaffirmed Expert E.

Numerous survey respondents also confirmed Australia’s need for a legal framework to support the possible utilization of the location-based mobile phone emergency service, with clear rules and penalties to effectively control the utilization. One respondent noted that there should be “strict guidelines and rules for how and when the [location] information should be used, and significant penalties for companies that break these rules as well as appropriate compensation for the affected people.” Another respondent wrote that strict laws should govern what information is kept, how it is kept, and who has access to it. The idea of penalties for misuse of location information was also raised.

Respondents were divided on whether or not to introduce completely new legislation or amending existing legislation so that the immediate use of location-based mobile phone emergency services could begin. One respondent was concerned that quick “fixes” might open a door for potential gaps in the implementation of the amended legal framework in a way that could be employed by third parties for purposes other than emergencies. Another respondent was circumspect about the law in general: “[e]ven with policies or laws which are created, I am worried about quick laws being passed to authorities to allow them to use our data for surveillance without us wanting to.” This respondent was more concerned about the authorized use by external parties than unauthorized use.

5 The liability of the location-based emergency service providers

There can never be any absolute guarantee that an error will never occur when location-based mobile phone solutions are utilized under the national warning system in Australia. Different types of errors could originate such as, unintentional human mistakes and sudden faults in underlying technologies or infrastructure. However, several issues arise, especially if there is the likelihood of loss of life due to an error. Expert D maintains that there must be the ability to identify where the error occurred in order to take the appropriate action against an entity and that someone is held liable for that mistake, especially in the event that there is loss of life as a result of that error. Consider the complexity of the LBS value chain and the scenario whereby the Bureau of Meteorology sends out a cyclone watch message via a third party provider, who for some reason downgrades the message eventually misinforming the public. Thus, “defining the source of the error is a condition to defining the accountability of each party involved in these solutions” (Expert D).

5.1 Government accountability

It may be difficult to understand how a government can be held accountable for its actions (or inactions) but Royal Commissions in Australia are common, providing a platform for major governmental public inquiries into a given issue. For example, there was a 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC) which handed down its final report on July 31, 2010. In the context of LBS for emergency services, the interviewees were not in agreement on who for instance would be held accountable if a person did not receive a warning message at a crucial time. The SES pondered on such a scenario: “[i]f I do not get that warning message that I have been promised that I am going to get on my mobile phone and my family or I am hurt as a result of that, my question to government is going to be: ‘Well you promised you were going to tell me and you have not and I have suffered this damage from it.’ I would be heading down the road to one of those barristers and I reckon I would have a pretty good case.” Realistically, however, another interviewee noted that no technology or system is fool proof, and that given LBS solutions rely on technology, the government cannot be to blame for system errors which are squarely outside their control. There is nothing to say that at any given point in time, something could go unintentionally wrong with the technology.

Expert A believed that the government should not be liable for any problems surrounding location-based services that negatively impact people, given that early warning systems are just one method among many available during disasters. But despite this, the government still needs to define, through an explicit legal framework, its exact responsibilities and obligations under location-based mobile phone emergency solutions. According to the SES: “[t]he government needs to have a look and make sure they have all the legal ends tied up to protect themselves so that whatever legislation they will bring in to place to cover this, it will provide appropriate protection for them to be able to provide the service.”

5.2 The telecommunications carriers’ accountability

Among the issues that should also be regarded in future legislation, or within amendments into existing Acts, is a reference to the possible inaccuracies in the delivered information disseminated by the telecommunications carriers to the people in the case of an emergency. Consider a scenario where a warning notifies the wrong group of people about a pending natural disaster, or provides the wrong list of directions on what to do (based on the location of a mobile), during and immediately after the emergency. Expert C advised that while it was good to have accuracy requirements, he believed it was a “very dangerous game to play to say that anybody has to be absolutely correct. And this is actually particularly true of location-based services with specific reference to things like the value of the location as determined ... It is actually a statistical game and it is actually not possible to be one hundred percent correct.” A notable practical example to support this can be found in the U.S. Government E-911 initiative, as the interviewee added “for a handset-based location determination technology like GPS, the operator has to be within 50 meters, 67th percent. So, in other words, you have to be within 50 meters of accuracy at a twothirds confidence. So, two out of three of those locations you provide you need to be correct within that 50 meters. And then they also said further that you need to be within 100 meters of accuracy at the 95th percentile. So, in other words, 19 out of 20 times you had to be correct within 100 meters. But, they quite reasonably said that 5 percent of the time, you may be well, completely wrong. But, there are basically two levels of confidence that are specified as part of the regulation.”

Accordingly, what is needed in the Australian context is to set comparable accuracy requirements that practically define the responsibilities of the telecommunication carriers and/or the government when location-based services are utilized nationally for emergency management. It is the operators who need to be held responsible for achieving those levels of performance, not so much the Australian Government. Expert C said, “[y]ou can use that mechanism to ensure that the operators are applying all the due diligence that they should be doing, that their network is as optimized as effectively can be on any kind of reasonable cost analysis basis, but at the same time it means that you are not going to hold liable that operator for an individual event where in fact the location information was not correct with respect to that location determination. And with respect to th