Categories: locationnoticemobileinformnotify

Asynchronous notice

Summary

How can a service effectively provide notice to a user who gave permission once but whose information is accessed repeatedly (perhaps even continuously) over a long period of time? Proactively notify the user after the time of consent that information is being tracked, stored or re-distributed.

Support notice of ongoing location tracking.

Supports Notice, User Control, Transparency and feedback

Context

Tracking a person's location over time in an invisible fashion, with or without prior explicit consent. (Particularly useful for background tracking, tracking through devices with limited or no screen space, or tracking repeatedly over long periods of time. For devices with sufficient screen space or other notification affordances, see also ambient notice.)

Problem

How can a service effectively provide notice to a user who gave permission once but whose information is accessed repeatedly (perhaps even continuously) over a long period of time? If a user forgets that they gave access (or who has access) they may later be surprised or upset by the continued flow of personal information. Also, initial consent may have been forged by an attacker or have been provided by another user of a shared device -- if synchronous notice is only provided 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.

Providing an asynchronous notice requires a reliable mechanism to contact the user (a verified email address or telephone number, for example). Care should be taken to ensure that the mechanism can actually reach the person using the device being tracked. (For example, notifying the owner of the billing credit card may not help the spouse whose location is being surreptitiously tracked.)

In contrast to the common privacy practice of providing consistent and reliable systems, you may wish to provide random asynchronous notice. If there is a concern that a malicious user may have opted-in the user without their knowledge, a notice that is sent once a week at the same time each week may allow the attacker to borrow the device at the appointed time and clear the notice.

Many repeated notices may annoy users and eventually inure them to the practice altogether. Take measures to avoid unnecessary notices and some level of configuration for frequency of notices. This must be balanced against the concerns of an attacker's opting the user in without their knowledge.

Solution

Proactively notify the user after the time of consent that information is being tracked, stored or re-distributed. This asynchronous notice could be achieved through an email, text message, on-screen notice or even through non- digital means (by telephone or postal mail, say). The message should inform the user about the ongoing practice, including background context (since the user may well have forgotten) about the service and any opportunities for access and control.

Asynchronous notices may also include a summary of the data recently collected (since the last notice, say) in order to provide clarity (and reminders) to the user about the extent of collection. See also, [Privacy dashboard] (Privacy-dashboard) and Access.

By ensuring that users aren't surprised, asynchronous notice may increase trust in the service and comfort with continued disclosure of information.

Examples

  1. Google Latitude reminder email

Google Latitude users can configure a reminder email (see below) when their location is being shared with any application, including internal applications like the Location History service.


This is a reminder that you are sharing your Latitude location with the following application(s):

Google Location History
You may disable these applications at any time by going to https://www.google.com/latitude/apps?hl=en]

Do more with Latitude
Go to https://www.google.com/latitude/apps on your computer and try the following:

Google Location History lets you store your history and see a dashboard of interesting information such as frequently visited places and recent trips. Google Talk Location Status lets you post your location in your chat status. Google Public Location Badge lets you publish your location on your blog or site.

You are receiving this reminder once a week. To change your reminder settings, go to: https://www.google.com/latitude/apps?hl=en&tab=privacyreminders


  1. Fire Eagle My Alerts

Fire Eagle My Alerts configuration by npdoty, on Flickr
Fire Eagle My Alerts configuration by npdoty, on Flickr