Personal privacy in the age of smartphones and social media is a hotly debated topic at the moment, especially in the wake of the controversy surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica earlier in the year. By giving out their personal information, consumers are putting a lot of trust in companies to ensure that their data is being stored safely and being used correctly.
One technology that has certainly been divisive is location aware technology. The thought of an app on your phone knowing your location at all times is understandably concerning for many smartphone users and frankly it can all seem a bit Orwellian.
The technology itself can be massively useful for consumers (I’d be lost without Google Maps!), but for the majority of users, giving out their location to any app that asks may not seem like a good idea. After all, you don’t know for sure who might have access to that data and what they could be doing with it. Granted, all of this may sound a bit too conspiracy theorist, but when it comes to privacy and personal safety, most people would rather be safe than sorry.
There is certainly scope for this data to be abused should it fall into the wrong hands and this was highlighted back in 2010 by pleaserobme.com, who shed light one of the potential risks of location tracking. With many social media apps including the ability to ‘check-in’ and broadcast your location, people making use of this feature are often unwittingly making themselves an easy target for would-be criminals.
This isn’t so much about where you are, but where you aren’t. If you’re out and about and you share share that information on social media, potential burglars can be confident that you aren’t going to be at home. Pleaserobme.com aggregates data from social media and lets you see currently empty homes. Perhaps this is an irresponsible use of the data, but it serves as reminder that something as simple as sharing your location could have dangerous consequences.
However, despite the privacy concerns with location aware technology, plenty of businesses are using it to actually improve security – whether it’s for personal safety or for keeping sensitive data secure.
All businesses have sensitive information which only select members of staff have access to. For example, HR has access to staff information while accountants have access to financial records. And while it’s fairly easy to place restrictions on who is able to access the particular data, being able to control where they access it is another matter entirely. With mobile devices being so widespread, employees are able to access sensitive data remotely, on their phones, tablets and laptops. But is this necessarily a good idea? Should the accountant be able to access the financial records wherever they are? Having members of staff accessing sensitive information wherever they want increases the chance of data breaches. Employees could easily misplace their phones or laptops, and if they have sensitive information on them, this could pose a huge risk to the company.
But thanks to location aware technology, businesses are able to keep their data more secure than ever. By using bluetooth beacons, businesses can ensure that their employees can only access the data when they’re in the vicinity of the beacons. This can mean that they’re able to access the data in their office, but once they go down to the cafeteria for lunch they no longer have access. This is particularly useful for investment banks who often need to use ‘Chinese walls’ to ensure that data isn’t being passed between departments.
With workforces becoming ever more mobile and dispersed, traditional approaches to keeping employees safe may not be the right way to go for every business. Everbridge Safety Connection offers a solution that makes use of location based technology.
The service aims to help companies keep their employees safe through using location based technology in a number of ways, whether their employees are working remotely or spread across a large campus. For example, if an employee is out of the office and travelling to a meeting and they’re near to the location of potentially dangerous situation, then they’ll be sent messages to warn them and help keep them out of harm’s way.
Also, in the event of an evacuation, users will be sent automated messages that guide them through the evacuation process Everbridge Safety Connection sends out automated messages to members of staff in the event of an evacuation to help guide them through the process. Along with a number of other features to allow your company to easily find your location if necessary, the mobile app includes a panic button in case an employee does find themselves in a dangerous situation which will instantly notify the companies security team.
The challenge for anyone developing an app which is dependant on location aware capabilities is to ensure that people who download the app will trust it enough to tap the all important ‘allow button when the app asks for access to the user’s location. The real key for businesses to build trust is complete transparency with why they need the data, who is able to see it and whether the data is being stored in a safe way as this has been shown to ease customer’s concerns.
If you’re wanting to build location aware technology into your app, contact us today and we’ll see what we can do for your project.