Home > Public Domain Data > Locational Privacy: Cellphones vs. GPS

Locational Privacy: Cellphones vs. GPS

In our book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, we consider a number of issues surrounding privacy and geospatial data.  As technology improves in spatial accuracy and becomes more ubiquitous, the issues that we are raising in the book are quickly moving from GIS news to front-page news.  For example, Forbes.com reported last week “in the wake of a historic Supreme Court ruling that police can’t use GPS devices planted on a car to track suspects without a warrant,” the US Congress “is reconsidering the question of what kinds of location tracking constitute an invasion of privacy.” And a University of Pennsylvania reminds them that the smartphone can track people more precisely than any device merely attached to our car–even without the use of GPS:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2012/05/17/reminder-to-congress-cops-cellphone-tracking-can-be-even-more-precise-than-gps/

Can it? I conducted a series of tests between a GPS as a standalone receiver versus a smartphone last year, and I found remarkable horizontal accuracy on my phone:

http://blogs.esri.com/Info/blogs/gisedcom/archive/2011/04/15/gps-vs-smartphone-part-1-of-2.aspx

All of this reinforces our book’s points that as the technology improves, it spreads beyond the original core GIS users, and that opens up even more issues in broader society, as well as being excellent fodder for discussion with students in teaching GIS, sociology, geography, law, and other subjects.

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Categories: Public Domain Data
  1. josephkerski
    April 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I have revisited this topic, conducted a new study, and have posted a map in ArcGIS Online with my results, here: http://blogs.esri.com/esri/gisedcom/2013/03/08/comparing-the-spatial-accuracy-of-field-data-collected-with-smartphones-and-gps-receivers/

    –Joseph Kerski

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