The use of “location-aware” smartphones and voluntary sharing of information is diminishing people’s privacy, say researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU), Israel.
The team argued that “dynamic visibility” in which technological surveillance is combined with personal information volunteered by individuals online has led to diminished overall privacy.
“Technology is not only used top-down but also bottom-up, with individuals using their own technological devices to share and enhance their visibility in space,” said Tali Hatuka from TAU’s department of geography and human environment.
“Whenever we use ‘location-aware’ devices or tap on Waze or dating apps, like Tinder, or check-in on Facebook, we are really diminishing our own privacy,” Hatuka added in a paper published in the journal Urban Studies.
This combination of secret surveillance and voluntary sharing contributes to a sense of “being exposed” in a public space that normalises practices of sharing personal data by individuals.
The result is diminished overall privacy.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers developed an Android application called “Smart-Spaces” to collect information for the study.
The app combines smartphone-based surveys with the online tracking of locations and phone application usage.
The “Smart-Spaces” app was installed for 20 days on the phones of TAU students who answered context-based surveys in the course of their daily routines.
Each participant was interviewed before and after the installation of “Smart-Spaces”.
More than 73 percent of the participants shared their locations as they answered the surveys.
“Moreover, there was a correlation between the kind of space they were in — private home, library, street, square etc. — and their willingness to provide information, with a higher willingness to share location and other information when the subject was in public spaces,” Hatuka added.