The Ethical and Legal Quandaries of GPS Data

GPS tracking has evolved to become an essential part of daily life, and with its rapid integration making its way into our most private and professional lives, the growing concerns about security and privacy have brought about the need for user awareness. As is the case with other technologies, GPS tracking has also invaded the ways humans function and go about their tasks and responsibilities. With the expansion of technology and its evolution into a more affordable and accessible tool, GPS tracking has made its way from industries such as emergency services, transportation, and logistics to personal use of gadgets, such as cell phones, smartwatches, and fitness trackers. Its growing utility calls for an essential responsible use, and for the same reason, it is of paramount importance that not only its implications and potential risks be understood but also that we stay aware of the ways in which such threats could be addressed.

The primary concern that is always associated with GPS tracking is the collection of personal data without any explicit consent. The data collected can range from actual location information to location history, which points to revealing the movement and routine of an individual. While the collection of such data may be a mandatory requirement to access certain services or the effective function of some applications, it does not come without potential risks. The availability of personal data on such a huge scale leads to opportunities for misuse and exploitation. For instance, it enables hackers to use it for malicious purposes, including but not limited to stalking and identity theft. It is also seen as a blow to the fundamental right of privacy in the context of totalitarian regimes accessing and tracking down people with dissenting voices and hence remains a helpful tool for surveillance.

Not only that, but it also gives rise to legal and ethical questions. Data protection regulations do govern access to this type of data and its usage, but they are usually restricted to a particular jurisdiction. Discrimination and bias on the basis of an individual’s location data also give way to well-grounded ethical concerns. Lately, insurance companies are said to have been involved in using such information for determining premiums, which is a blatant practice of discrimination. Additionally, the impact of GPS tracking on the mental health of individuals in a case when they feel frequently monitored could lead to an increase in various health problems, like depression and anxiety. As a result, it does add to the loss of personal freedom and individual autonomy. Surveillance may also cause individuals to feel a loss of control when they realize that their movement is restricted. Another grave concern is the ownership and, thus, the control of personal data. Irrespective of the consent taken, the question as to who owns the data has ambiguous answers, which also reflects on the future usage of data.

For the aforementioned reasons, user awareness takes the form of a critical perspective when it comes to the usage of GPS tracking technology. It can serve not only as knowledge but also ensure a safe and responsible use, leading to informed decisions. No matter the way in which it is used, whether it is for navigation, or tracking a fitness activity, or finding a nearby location, the understanding of how GPS works and collects data can be crucial in utilizing the technology without carrying a worry about privacy being compromised. Let’s say users can only opt for sharing only the necessary information and limit access to other kind of data. Users can also grant limited access to GPS apps and devices, and stay protective of sharing data on public platforms. They could also regularly review and manage their preferences for sharing location data. Such methods can give users greater control over their personal information without giving up on the convenience of GPS technology.

Apart from individual steps, certain collective efforts are also necessary to spread awareness and educate the public on the usage of GPS technology. This could include:

  • Workshops and Training sessions: Educating users on the limitations and usage of GPS technology through frequent trainings and workshops is an effective way to spread awareness.
  • Online Resources: The instant availability of resources online, such as blogs and informative videos, can reach a wider audience and can also be easily shared on social media platforms.
  • Educational Institutions: Educational institutions can play a vital role in educating the public about the risks involved with the usage of GPS technology. Students can be made to stay informed from an early age with the incorporation of GPS education as a part of the curriculum.

Additionally, it also falls within the responsibilities of companies to make sure their communication with users is clear. This can be done through two ways:

  • Clarity: Companies need to ensure that not only are their terms and conditions written in easy language, but they are also available in the respective languages that the users are familiar with.
  • Manuals: Companies should also ensure that their product manuals have a separate section on GPS usage to educate the users so that it is used effectively but also responsibly.
  • User Interfaces: Companies need to keep the designs of user interfaces simple instead of complex. This will not hinder the user’s understanding and will help them understand easily.
  • Regular Updates: With advancements in technology, GPS functionalities can change. Companies should be able to provide regular updates and include information on any changes in the functions of GPS. This will keep the users aware of the changes.

It is said that with great power comes great responsibility. It seems the case with GPS technology is the same, where it has brought a huge advancement, the necessary skills needed to tackle the risks associated with it should not be ignored, and user awareness should be the only vision of the future. With adequate knowledge and sufficient measures, a private and secure environment in the age of technology is though a distant possibility, but it is not an impossible task either.