Data Privacy Day 2011: Microsoft offers privacy advice on location-based services

In celebration of Data Privacy Day, Microsoft offers privacy advice on location-based services to businesses and consumers.

On January 28, the United States and 27 European countries will celebrate International Data Privacy Day which promotes privacy and data protection awareness and helps to educate consumers, businesses and government officials on the best privacy practices and rights.

In today's cyberculture, as more people depend upon smartphones to stay connected to the digital world, we see more emerging security and privacy threats than ever before. While many consumers see the benefits of using location-based services, many more are naive about the possible dangers of "over-sharing" their personal information on social networking sites.  Do you know who is collecting your personal data or what is being done with it?

The Data Privacy Day 2011 website urges businesses to find out if they are "complying with laws and regulations requiring consumer privacy protections." The Data Privacy Projects site is "dedicated to investigating and recommending enhancements to current privacy policies, practices and technologies through research, collaboration and education."

Microsoft is offering location privacy advice after surveying 1,500 individuals in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany and Japan. Microsoft's Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch offered guidelines to enhance consumers' privacy while using location-based services such as disable geo-tagging until you need it, don't "check-in" or use GPS coordinates from home when accessing location-aware social networking sites, and only share location data with people you truly trust.

Microsoft's "Location-based Services Usage & Perception Survey" revealed that 51% of people surveyed do use location-based services.  Of those, the most commonly used applications and services are as follows:

  • 70% - GPS navigation
  • 46% - Weather alerts
  • 38% - Traffic updates
  • 38% - Restaurant info/reviews
  • 36% - Locating nearest convenience (gas, coffee shops, etc.)
  • 33% - Shopping/coupons (special offers)
  • 26% - Find nearest ATM
  • 22% - Get movie show times
  • 20% - Local news
  • 18% - Social networking
  • 10% - Gaming
  •   6% - Geo-tagging photos
  •   5% - Enhanced 911
  •   3% - Locating your children
  •   6% - Other

“As people use location based services to 'check-in' to their favorite places, they also need to check their privacy settings and the privacy policies of the services they’re using," Lynch said. "There is a lot of value that comes with using location based services but we also need to continue an open dialogue about how these tools impact privacy.”

Lynch stressed that many Microsoft products showcase "Privacy By Design" such as Kinect's approach to storing biometric information and the "Tracking Protection Lists" in the upcoming IE9. "As people use the Internet in new ways and share more of their lives online through multiple devices, privacy needs and concerns have also evolved," Lynch said.

Also in an effort to support Data Privacy Day, Online Trust Alliance released the 2011 Data Breach Incident Readiness Guide with recommendations for businesses and organizations. According to the Guide [PDF], the true test for organizations and businesses should be the ability to answer key questions such as:

  • Do you know what sensitive information is maintained by your company, where it is stored and how it is kept secure?
  • Do you have an incident response team in place ready to respond 24/7?
  • Are management teams aware of security, privacy and regulatory requirements related specifically to your business?
  • Have you completed an audit of all data collection activities, including cloud services, mobile devices and outsourced services?
  • Are you prepared to communicate to customers, partners and stockholders in the event of a breach or data loss incident?

"In the past 5 years, over 525 million records containing sensitive personal information have been compromised, significantly undermining the foundation of consumer trust," said Craig Spiezle, Executive Director and President of the Online Trust Alliance. "With the onslaught of criminal and deceptive business activities, we are calling on business leaders to develop a readiness plan. Those failing to act may be faced with increased public scrutiny, regulatory pressures and a tarnished brand reputation."

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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