Sunday, March 6, 2011

Geolocation Check-ins: A Teenager's Perspective (Part II)

This is my 17 year old son's second installment regarding privacy concerns associated with teenagers using location-based services and social media. (You can find the first installment here.) For this installment I asked him to review the privacy policies of Foursquare, SCVNGR, Facebook Places and Google Latitude. I then asked him to (i) comment on whether he understood the policies, (ii)compare the policies and (iii) describe any privacy concerns he may have after reviewing the policies. His post follows:

The Privacy Policies of the four different location applications, Foursquare, SCVNGR, Facebook Places, and Google Latitude all have pretty much the same policies except for a few minor details. For example, with Foursquare your information is only used with your permission. They list in their policy what information they will be sharing with others and what of your information is kept secure. You give them certain information based on your check-ins and the messages and tips that you put out there. Your information isn’t legally allowed to be given out to other companies and agencies. Because you have a password protected account, your information cannot be shared unless you give them permission to give it out. The other two, Latitude and Facebook Places, both have policies very similar to these, and as far as I could tell from reading them, they have no significant differences that would change the amount of information that is being shared.

SCVNGR has a very similar policy except for the fact that for some features you have to pay, which means that they record your credit card number and other related information. They also cannot release your information to other companies because it is illegal, according to the policy outlined by the companies.

In my opinion, these policies are pretty clear about what they do and how your privacy is protected when you release your information to them. The wording is pretty easy to understand, and they seem to highlight all the important information that someone who wants to understand how their privacy is being protected would need to know. The policy for Facebook Places is the easiest to understand because it shows you through pictures what you need to do and where you need to go to monitor what information is released. The rest of the policies clearly outline what you need to do to make your privacy even more secure, but none are as clear as Facebook Places.

I think that these companies have made pretty good policies regarding what of your information they release to other companies. It does not seem like, unless you are very concerned with even the smallest bit of your information being released, there is much to worry about when you use these applications. When you use these applications, you willingly tell people where you are, where you are going, who you are with, and what you are doing. Just by deciding to use these applications, you are allowing your information to be shared because you are putting it out there yourself. According to the policies, they don’t give out information that could lead to anything that could be harmful to you or endanger you, so there really is nothing to worry about in my opinion.

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