Location-sharing applications and information privacy: Examining users’ willingness to share location information

Carina Maria Veeckman, Laurence Claeys, Paulien Coppens, Isabelle Stevens, Karel Verbrugge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


Location based services (LBS) have often been described as becoming the next "killer application" of mobile commerce since their launch, now almost a decade ago (cfr. Junglas and Watson, 2008). Partly due to the implementation of more accurate localization techniques, mobile service providers can - by taking the usage context into account - offer entirely new services, or add value to existing ones (Barnes, 2003). This contextual offering, i.e. the customer's perceived value of being able to access information at the right time in the right place, is one of the unique selling propositions of using LBS (Lee, 2005; Pura, 2005). As a result of these benefits of location information, mobile operators and other companies started to make important investments to extract, use and market it (Spiekermann, in: Schiller & Voisard, 2004). However, we do see that users are still reluctant to fully adopt these services, as adoption rates still remain very low (TNS Global, 2012; PewResearchCenter, 2013). The usage of personal data by third parties for commercial purposes and the provision of location-specific advertisements, make the use of personal data in LBS much more explicit. LBS require information about the users' physical location and sometimes identity and financial information to provide relevant services. Even when the identity is not explicitly revealed, the trace of location information can potentially lead to the identification of individuals (Jonker et al., 2005). Furthermore, since location-based networks are founded on a social computing technology that facilitates interpersonal communication and self-disclosure, it might also raise privacy issues when disclosing personal information in the location-based social network (Lowry, Cao & Everard, 2011). These possible losses of privacy, or breaches of the users' information privacy through tracking of their preferences, behaviour or identity, makes LBS users concerned to adopt these services (Zhou, 2012; Zhou, 2011; Xu, Teo & Yan, 2005). In the first place these privacy concerns decrease the users' intention to disclose personal information (Zhao et al., 2012; Xu, Teo, Tan & Agarwal, 2009). We suggest that in order to overcome these privacy concerns we need to question the underlying design principles of LBS. As LBS are a specific type of context aware applications where 'embodied interactions' are at stake (Dourish, 2004), we follow the plea from Belloti & Edwards (2001) to support intelligibility of system behavior and accountability for human users or to follow critical user participatory design principles (Claeys & Criel, 2009). When offering a highly personalized context-rich service, service providers and mobile network operators should empower users by enhancing their control over the data they distribute or interact with instead of disguising it. Based on the users' decision-making processes to reveal location information, an optimal privacy protection and balance between human and machine control should be guaranteed when using LBS. However, still little is know which factors influence the LBS users' intention to disclose location-related information, and especially within a European context. Based on a literature review and qualitative pre-study, our study builds therefore a privacy calculus model, in which individuals make privacy decisions based on an analysis of perceived risks and benefits resulting from the location information disclosure. In addition, the role of privacy intervention approaches used by LBS service providers is investigated by including incentives provision, privacy policy and privacy control. Using a survey distributed among a large- scale sample of 2.000 smartphone and mobile Internet users located in Belgium, we will test this model using the structural equation modelling technique (SEM). The results of this paper will enrich privacy research within the LBS context, but will more importantly provide practical recommendations to LBS service providers and mobile network operators in how to empower users with regard to the management of their personal data. A better understanding and control of the users' location information are a must, if LBS are to become - the legitimate application - of the 21st century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICA mobile pre-conference: Mobile Research for Building a Better World
Place of PublicationSeattle, USA
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - May 2014
Event11th Annual ICA Mobile Pre-conference Workshop - Seattle, WA, United States
Duration: 21 May 201422 May 2014

Publication series

NameICA mobile pre-conference: Mobile Research for Building a Better World


Workshop11th Annual ICA Mobile Pre-conference Workshop
CountryUnited States
CitySeattle, WA


  • location-based services
  • privacy calculus
  • mobile users

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