Spatial Privacy and Identity Oracles

The launch of Google Maps with My Location yesterday has stirred up discussion of spatial privacy in the NY Times.

Privacy issues have long been discussed in other sectors, but only relatively recently in GeoData arena. Bob Blakley has been studying this for quite a while, and has promoted the concept of an “Identity Oracle”. While it has nothing to do with Oracle Corporation, private industry does play a key role.

The idea is that I should own and control my private information. Presumably this would include my location. I want to decide who does and does not have access to my location (and my children’s location).

Bob explains it this way:

The Identity Oracle is not a technology. It’s a business. Its business plan says “We allow people to enjoy the benefits of their identities while protecting them against the risks of misuse of their identities”. It charges money for its services.

While privacy issues have been discussed in context of Location Based Services (LBS), I haven’t seen any discussion of how Identity Oracle concepts might fit into the mix.

An Identity Oracle would not allow others to know where I am, but only enough information to provide the service I want from them.

oracle of delphi
Tell us, Identity Oracle, is Kirk near a gas station?

For example, maybe I want to allow Google to sell my information to advertisers, but I don’t want them to reveal my location. I want gas stations to only know that I’m near them – but not my precise coordinates.

This is not a simple concept, but one worth exploring. Google will soon likely be under greater scrutiny with respect to spatial privacy, perhaps we in the geospatial community should consider how an Identity Oracle might fit into LBS business plans.

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