Location-Based Applications Popular, Despite Privacy Concerns: ISACA

Top concerns include third-party use of personal information for marketing purposes and strangers knowing too much about people's activities.

Fifty-eight percent of consumers who have a smart device use location-based applications, despite concerns about safety and third-party use of their personal information for marketing purposes, according to a survey from nonprofit global information security association ISACA (previously known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association).

According to the survey, the location-based activities most frequently done on a smartphone, tablet or laptop are getting directions via applications using the respondent€™s current location (59 percent), and tagging photos on social media, dating or photo-sharing sites such as Facebook (44 percent).

The study, based on a telephone poll of 1,000 Americans, suggested that many people have concerns or incomplete information about geolocation, which uses data acquired from a computer or mobile device to identify a physical location. Top concerns include third-party use of personal information for marketing purposes (24 percent) and strangers knowing too much about people€™s activities (24 percent). Personal safety is the next-biggest concern (21 percent), while 43 percent of people do not read the agreements on apps before downloading them. Of those who do read the agreements, 25 percent believe these agreements are not clear about how location information is being used.

€œLike any other kind of information sharing, location-based apps can be tremendously convenient but also risky. Knowledge is power. People should educate themselves so they can understand how their data is being used or know how to disable this feature,€ said Marios Damianides, past international president of ISACA and a partner with the advisory services division at Ernst & Young. €œBusinesses that collect location-based data have a responsibility, too. They need to define an ethical governance policy and communicate it transparently.€

Applications with geolocation capabilities typically offer benefits such as precise navigation, location-based discount coupons or easy information-sharing through features like social check-ins. Close to one-third (32 percent) of consumers in ISACA€™s survey use location-based apps more than they did a year ago.

What's telling is that the next most popular activity is disabling location-based features on select apps and services (38 percent). According to the ISACA white paper €œGeolocation: Risk, Issues and Strategies,€ malicious use of geolocation data can put both an individual and an enterprise at risk when personal information like gender, race, occupation and financial history are combined with information from a GPS and geolocation tags.

The ISACA geolocation survey is designed to help gauge current attitudes and behaviors related to the use of geolocation-enabled devices and applications and the blurring boundaries between personal and work devices. The findings are based on a telephone survey conducted among two national probability samples that, when combined, consist of 1,005 adults (505 men and 500 women), 18 years of age and older, living in the continental United States.