Categories: locationnoticemobileuser-interfaceinformnotify

Ambient notice

Summary

Provide an ambient notice (unobtrusive, non-modal) when location is being accessed to increase awareness of ongoing tracking.

Provide unobtrusive, ongoing notice of real-time location tracking.

Supports notice, transparency and user control.

Context

When a service is tracking a user's location in an ongoing fashion, or accessing the user's location on each repeated use of a service. (See also, asynchronous notice.)

Problem

How can a service effectively provide notice to a user that location tracking is continuing, or happening again, without being as obtrusive as a repeated modal dialog? A user may not realize that an application given permission to access location is doing so continuously or repeatedly, or may not remember that explicit permissions given in the past allow a service to access data again later. In some cases, past explicit permission may not have been provided by the current user of the device (but instead by a spouse, parent or even an ex-spouse or stalker who temporarily had control of the device or the account). If notice is provided only at the time of consent, a user may inadvertently distribute personal information over a long period of time after having lost control of their device only momentarily.

A tray full of ambient notices may annoy or confuse users and inure them to ongoing practices. Take measures to avoid unnecessary notice. This must be balanced against the concerns of an attacker's opting the user in without their knowledge.

Solution

Provide an ambient notice — unobtrusive, non-modal, but available at a glance or from a simple action — when location data is being accessed. The notice should provide opportunities for interaction: to learn more about the use of data or to revoke permissions.

Examples

  • Location services icons: Mac OS X, Google Chrome, et al.

Lion Location Icon

Mac OS X Lion adds an ambient location services icon (a compass arrow) which appears in the task bar momentarily when an application is accessing the device's location.

Chrome Location Icon

Chrome adds a cross-hair icon to the location bar when a web site accesses the device location via the W3C Geolocation API. Clicking on the icon provides potential actions: clearing the saved consent for this site and accessing settings.

Similar examples exist in at least Android, iOS and Win7.