Geofencing Introduces Security And Privacy Issues

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Geofencing introduces security and privacy issues, for users.

A geo-fence could be dynamically generated as in a radius around a point location, or a geo-fence can be a predefined set of boundaries (such as school zones or neighborhood boundaries).

The use of a geo-fence is called geo-fencing and one example of usage involves a location-aware device of a location-based service (LBS) user entering or exiting a geo-fence.

Geofencing introduces security and privacy issues, for users.

This activity could trigger an alert to the device's user as well as messaging to the geo-fence operator.

This info, which could contain the location of the device, could be sent to a mobile telephone or an email account.

Often the technology uses Global Positioning Systems (GPS), however, it can also use other data signals including cellular, wi-fi, and RFID.

The geo’fence’ operates on one device and picks a series of location points nearby to create an artificial boundary.

It then connects with available networks, such as cellular or wireless internet, to exchange signals with other devices.

If a device is broadcasting its location near the boundary, the geofence can identify whether it is inside or outside the coordinates and signal for a programmed action to occur.

BMW uses geo-fencing as an extra security layer for its new models, BMW's Trackstar Service.

Marketing isn’t the only practical use for geofencing.

Other popular examples of ways organizations and individuals can use geofencing to their advantage include:

  • Personal reminders to accomplish certain tasks when in the area.
  • Smart devices, such as thermostats that adjust the temperature when the resident is walking into their home.
  • Security alerts when items move, such as BMW’s Trackstar.
  • Promoting restaurant deals, or drive incoming business.
  • Consider targeting ads where future customers may be thinking of dinner, such as concerts, theatres or ticket kiosks.
  • Making certain pets, such as cats or dogs, are still in their respective neighbourhoods.
  • Tracking shipments, keeping track of logistics and delivery timekeeping.
  • Keeping drones away from restricted airspace.
  • Safety messages for tourists when they wander too close to dangerous landmarks.
  • Alerts to parents of toddlers if they get out of the house, or if younger children leave the neighbourhood.

As expected, not all individuals are comfortable having their location data shared via geofencing. In fact, in 2017, Massachusetts was one of the first states to enact a consumer protection law that objected to the use of ​ location-based advertising.​

The Attorney General blocked an ad campaign from Copley Advertising, which was hired by a Christian organizationto set up a geofence ​around women’s health clinics​ that would target women in the waiting room or nearby with anti-abortion ads.

In 2015, US Senator Charles Schumer proposed a law requiring drone manufacturers to build geofencing constraints into unmanned aerial vehicle navigation systems that would override the commands of the unsophisticated operator, preventing the device from flying into protected airspace.

While many ad-tech companies use geofencing to collect data on customers, new pioneers in the geofencing space, like Radar, are careful to put the user experience at the forefront of innovation.


image: Radar

In a space dominated by ad tech and data monetization companies, Radar’s privacy-first approach means they do not sell any data they collect, nor do they share location data across customers.

Today’s use of geofencing has evolved beyond simply tracking where a target customer (or a herd of sheep) is at any given time.

With privacy concerns challenging companies to rethink their use of geofencing, companies like Radar are leading the way in innovating how geofences can improve the user experience.

Radar has contributed a paper on the subject, that can be found here.

For example: Burger King’s ​Whopper Detour Campaign​.

Burger King ran a promotion to sell Whopper burgers for $0.01, but only to customers within a 600-foot radius of a McDonald’s.

Customers could download the Burger King app and head to their nearest McDonald’s.

When they were within the geofence, the app would redirect them to their nearest Burger King to redeem the promo.

This is just one way brands are thinking creatively of how to use geofencing to surprise and delight customers, without ​invading their privacy​.

Although by now, geofencing probably looks pretty attractive.

The technology can offer better security, customer engagement and keep an eye on situations when you can’t.

However be aware that the technology is not without flaws, especially your user’s privacy may be at risk.

By tracking where we are respective to physical objects or landmarks, geofencing can collect more personal data about the user that originally intended.

It’s not only that the technology knows where we are: it ‘sees’ what places we interact with.

A geofence set up near a hospital that records regular visits may indicate health issues or loved ones in intensive care.

Geofencing surrounding places of worship can indicate religious preferences, while close proximity to an LBQT+ nightclub, can suggest sexual orientation.

In Europe, geofencing may only be permitted if users opt-in and agree to use the service prior to deployment.

While ​retail​ and ​travel​ are two industries already invested in geofencing, there’s a lot of potential for this technology to grow to government, healthcare, and more.

So for those interested in this growing technology, Radar is the place to visit first.

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