The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released its anticipated report on location-based services, entitled Location-Based Services: An Overview of Opportunities and Other Considerations (“Report”).1 The Report follows the FCC’s examination of locationbased services (“LBS”) at last year’s FCC workshop on LBS and privacy issues they may raise.
The Report highlights the many ways in which innovative LBS are providing value to consumers, but also underscores the challenges of ensuring that people enjoy such services without placing their confidential information at risk. The FCC reiterates its goals with respect to privacy, including: (1) ensuring personal information is not misused; (2) requiring transparent information practices; and (3) providing consumer control and choice. The Report notes that some members of industry have stepped up to meet these goals, but industry responses vary.
The FCC provides its perspective on key privacy issues associated with LBS, stating that transparent notice is “one of the most important aspects” of commercial data privacy practices, and that such notice should be clear, concise, and accurate. At the same time, the FCC recognizes the challenges of providing notice with regard to LBS, due in part to small screen sizes. The FCC takes the view that companies may derive competitive benefits from offering transparency to consumers.
The FCC acknowledges the challenge of deciding whether choice should be “optout” or “opt-in,” but identifies a “developing consensus in the LBS industry that opt-in is appropriate” for location data.2 Another challenge is to ensure that choice does not interfere with the user experience. The FCC suggests that uniform language for privacy choices could address this challenge. Finally, the Report identifies children’s use of mobile technology as a challenge for LBS providers.
The FCC states that third party access to data also creates challenges for LBS, such as the existence of many industry players in the LBS environment, including app developers who may not have experience or resources to address privacy. The FCC reports that companies are “taking steps” to ensure that associated third parties are attentive to privacy but acknowledges that companies have a limited ability to control third party practices.3
Finally, the FCC states that because location data is perceived as sensitive, “heightened security requirements reasonably can be expected” of LBS providers.4