What if your-situation plus smart-phone-location-tracking equals uh-oh

Knowledge is power.  When we learn what is involved in location tracking on smart phones, we can then determine what impact it has on us and our organizations.  Then we can adjust to avoid bad results.

Stalking – if there is an issue with a stalker in your life, then to reduce risks you need to trade down from a smart phone. If you’re an organization that deals with victims of stalkers, such as a domestic abuse shelter, this is a major issue. Secrecy of shelter locations is an important tool to protect clients. This would apply to clients obviously, but also to staff and perhaps even friendly reporters and funders who visit your shelters.

Steve Hewitt of Christian Computing Magazine mentioned at the Christian Leadership Alliance conference last week that domestic abuse shelters have long been aware of this issue and advise their clients to make appropriate changes.

Location data in pictures – there are certain organizations for whom it is a major issue if photographs include longitude and latitude. There are organizations that don’t want it known where they took a picture. If that is an issue for your organization, you need to test your phones to see what they include in metadata.

Discreet meetings – there are non-profit organizations in our NPO community for whom it might be a problem to show publicly when and where they visited. For others to be able to infer what houses were visited or what neighborhoods are worked could possibly put lives at risk. You know if this applies to your organization.

What to do?  If the circumstances in your life or the nature of your organization overlaps with location tracking in smart phones to produce a result that is scary, then you can make changes:

  • Use a digital camera to take pictures that you really want if revealing the location of a photo is an issue.
  • Remove the battery before you go to a key meeting where you don’t want to have a record of having been at that location.
  • Leave the phone at the hotel if you’re going to discreet meetings when the location could compromise the people in the meeting.
  • Use a “dumb” phone if there is a serious stalker threat.

We need to pay attention to the privacy issues. Then we can change the way we use the technology so we don’t cause serious problems.

Previous posts here, here, and here.

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