Geofence offers a powerful tool for business to use it as a marketing tool in order to target customers within specific locations. It is a very effective tool which is powerful and, at the same time, very dangerous.


What is geofence?

Geofence is a virtual geographic boundary, defined by GPS or RFID technology, that enables software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area.

 

Why Geofence is a problem?

Geofence requires mobile devices to "call home" informing the geofence service provider of you physical location at all times.

Such practice has become a subject of law suit against big corp (such as Netflix) which used to geofence their service in Europe. 

Because geofence architecture allow to effectively track a person's movement, it has been associate to "spying" and, breach of privacy.
Although legal guidelines for the use of location data on the web exists, the way the information is saved and used is usually only exposed by scandals (like with Facebook and Google).

The law firm Taylor Wessig uses the example of Google Glasses combining location data with facial-recognition technology to “turn the public into paparazzi.” What’s worse, in countries with no overarching privacy legislation, little prevents users’ location data from being transferred to data brokers without their consent.

 

What business must be aware of?

Geofence permission boxThe misuse of location data, wheater intentional or not, can have serious legal consequences for both your business and your client.

To protect your business, the use, processing and retention of location data should be clearly addressed in your Terms of use and Privacy Policy. Clarification of how the collected information is used and storage location along with which 3rd party services will be granted to use this information must be disclosed to the user.

For instance, in Europe, companies are required to provide the user (upon request and within 30 days) all the information regarding the user held by the business. Because of that, many advertising platforms (such as Geofence) are not extensively used in Europe.

Although the same type of privacy law still not applicable to United States, it should be a matter of time until similar laws are passed to ensure user privacy.

 

Conclusion

Although Geofence is a powerful and effective tool, it is also privacy ticking bomb. It is only a matter of time until the practice gain public knowledge where, in my opinion, stronger privacy laws will start to shell companies into law suits and data dump demands, as happened throughout Europe after GDPR was passed.