A rational perspective on the privacy issues when considering using location-based services

Big data and data collection are often seen in a negative daylight, as public attention to big data gathering usually results in unwanted attention for organizations. The other side of the story is that such data collection is usually the result of organizations wanting to deliver personalized services more effectively. In cases where the user becomes skeptical when asked to share their personal and private data, organizations provide an (additional) incentive to mitigate their perceived risk. In the case of recent developments in mobile shopping services, there is a balance between the perceived value and the perceived risk of sharing private information of the customer Xu et al. noted [1]. An easy example of this the case of a customer of having an empty stomach, an empty fridge at 10pm and a connected smartphone. Will he decide to give out his location-based information to a mobile service in order to look for food ordering opportunities or will he not? Will he value the potential to find food less than his location-based information at that hour? You decide.

Furthermore, Xu et al. found that the usage of location-based services is correlated to monetary incentives. Individuals are more willing to disclose their locality to location-based services when offered a financial incentive, Xu et al. have found in their research [1]. The financial incentive is often given in the form of some future saving, implying that there is money to be gained in future expenses. These incentives often take the form in discounts on related services or rebates. Some skeptics have been in agreement with having their personalized data shared in trade for an additional incentive. When asked about their rationalization, some skeptics claim that ‘the risk is worth the gain’ while others state that they have ‘serious concerns’ about sharing their information. If you think that the former is non-existent, please consider the example of the guy with the empty stomach again.

The location-based are services that require more personal and private information in order to function better. The so-called personalization privacy paradox is the epitome of the previous statement; the better services an individual wants or requires, the more willing he has to be to share his personal information. Xu et al. have found that using personalized services could help individuals in superseding their privacy concerns. When addressing the paradox, the authors imply that if customers are more knowledgeable of the service that they require, they make a more rational decision. If the customers have high privacy concerns towards the use of personalized services, they are less inclined to consider using the service and will automatically consider alternate opportunities (in case of the hungry customer, he could use the ‘service’ of asking his physical neighbor for information) and therefore are not part the targeted demographic Pappas et al. imply [2]. In addition, if the location-based services give the option to the consumer to control the use of their personalized information, the mitigated effect might tempt critics to use the service after all [3], although future research would have to investigate this in more detail.

In the end, the rule of thumb is: “when (information) services are offered for free, you are paying with your personal data”. Some people are okay with this, and that is… okay.

Disclaimer: Although largely based on the article of Xu et al. [1], the opinion presented in this article does not portray the sentiment in the paper itself. The opinion presented in this article rests solely by the author and by none of the authors cited in this article. Critics are free to comment below, and are encouraged to do so.

[1] Xu, H., Luo, X. R., Carroll, J. M., & Rosson, M. B. (2011). The personalization privacy paradox: An exploratory study of decision making process for location-aware marketing. Decision Support Systems, 51(1), 42-52.
[2] Pappas, I. O., Giannakos, M. N., & Chrissikopoulos, V. (2012, June). Personalized services in online shopping: Enjoyment and privacy. In Information Society (i-Society), 2012 International Conference on (pp. 168-173). IEEE.
[3] Schwaig, K. S., Segars, A. H., Grover, V., & Fiedler, K. D. (2013). A model of consumers’ perceptions of the invasion of information privacy. Information & Management, 50(1), 1-12.

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