Best Practices for Location-based Services: Privacy, User Control, Carrier Relations, Advertising & More

Location: Salon A-F Level: Novice

LBS are becoming increasingly popular. Advancements in GPS and cell tower triangulation have enabled new services to crop up and existing services to expand, perfecting features, interoperability, advertising, consumer control, but have increased concerns around privacy and raised questions about what companies should do to protect their customers.

A good place to start when exploring privacy needs and standards to put in place is to work with industry organizations who work to establish accepted standards of privacy protection. Loopt, for instance, works with leading online mobile, social networking, and internet privacy organizations such as the Family Online Safety Institute, Center for Democracy & Technology, and the Ponemon Institute. Loopt is also TRUSTe certified.

First and foremost, users should be in control of their personal location information and fully aware of who they are sharing their location with and when, both at the group and individual level. LBS privacy controls and safety features need to be completely permission-based, while also being easy-to-use, intuitive, and effective. Consumers won’t adopt what they can’t easily use and what doesn’t benefit them, but they will hold a company accountable if their personal information is misused.

To experience the full benefits of LBS when sharing location, that information needs to be constantly updated, even if the application is not running so consumers can receive alerts when their friends are nearby or even an offer from a local store or restaurant. This affords companies the opportunity to lower costs for consumers through the inclusion of location-based advertising. Consumers will receive highly relevant and contextualized advertising based on their advertising, friend recommendations, and mobile blogs/journals. Again, this will only work if it’s easy, permission-based, and customer controlled.

Another key best practice for the effectiveness and usefulness of LBS is carrier and handset interoperability, so users can actually share their location and receive an alert if a friend is geographically close to them regardless of carrier or handset. This requires that privacy levels be standard at the service level so the customer experience will be uniform across carriers. This reliable and uniform experience will drive consumer desire for enhanced LBS features—like geo-tagging, blogging, social networking, and more.

This session will explore these ideas and more to answer the question of what LBS should focus on to successfully protect a user’s location while enhancing their day-to-day activities and interactions.

Photo of Sam Altman

Sam Altman


Sam Altman, 22, is the co-founder and CEO of Loopt, a Mountain View, Calif.-based startup that has built a revolutionary “social mapping” service to change the way people use mobile phones to keep in touch with their friends. Sam founded Loopt while he was still a student at Stanford University to find his friends on campus and to improve the way friends communicate. His primary responsibility within Loopt is driving the product vision, assembling a passionate team to realize that vision and making sure people have fun while they’re at it.

At Stanford University, Sam focused on computer security and machine learning. He also helped develop a patented system for navigation for one of the world’s first autonomous helicopter navigation systems, a task for which his experience as a pilot of small aircraft was good training. Sam raised seed financing from Paul Graham’s prestigious incubator called Y-Combinator to pay for a summer of development of the Loopt product, and soon thereafter raised $5M from Sequoia and NEA, two of the most prestigious and successful venture capital firms in the world. He is currently on leave from the computer science program

  • Autodesk
  • Google
  • ESRI
  • Nokia
  • DigitalGlobe
  • Earthscape
  • LightPole
  • MapJack
  • MapQuest
  • MetaCarta
  • Microsoft
  • Poly9
  • Skyhook Wireless
  • TeleAtlas
  • Yahoo! Inc.
  • Zvents
  • BNet

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