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Panelists Consider Location-Based Privacy and P2P Arms Race

in Broadband Data/Broadband's Impact by

Editor’s Note: This is the one of a series of panelist summary articles that will be reporting from the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, September 25-27, at George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va.
ARLINGTON, Va., September 26, 2009 - Location-based software has become one of the hottest new web applications, fueled by the expansion of smart phone users, these applications allow users to share their location with their friends or search for businesses based on the user’s location.

Janice Tsai, a graduate student from Carnegie Mellon University, presented a paper on the privacy concerns of these applications.

While location based applications are growing, Tsai’s research showed that many users are still concerned with exposing their location to the world. In a survey conducted by her research group, she found the greatest risk perceived by users was that they would be stalked or that the location of their homes would be revealed. The largest group of people interested in these types of applications is parents that want to be able to keep track of their children.

The biggest obstacle seen to mass adoption of such technologies is the limitation of privacy settings on many of these applications. While some applications allow for a complex privacy setting, such as allowing users to choose who can see their location  with varying degrees of detail (street level, city level, county level), when they can be located, and being able to be “invisible” to the network .

The second portion of the panel focused on the rise of P2P as one of the main sources of internet traffic. According to presenter Kevin Bauer, a graduate student from the University of Colorado, the fight between users of P2P and internet service providers will continue to escalate. Users are actively responding to blocking efforts by ISPs by encrypting their traffic or using proxy services, such as Tor, to hide their traffic.

Panelists for this event included:

  • Aaron Burstein, University of California Berkeley (Moderator)
  • Janice Tsai,Patrick Kelley, Lorrie Cranor, Norman Sadeh: Carnegie Mellon University
  • Kevin Bauer, Dirk Grunwald, Douglas Sicker: University of Colorado
  • Alvaro Cardenas, University of California-Berkeley, John Chuang, University of California-Berkeley, Jens Grossklags, University of California-Berkeley, Svetlana Radosavac, DOCOMO Communications Labratories USA, Inc., Chris Hoofnagle,University of California-Berkeley

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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