Most People Feel Negatively About Location Tracking in Websites and Apps According to New Research from Me2B Alliance

Spotlight Report highlights disapproval of location tracking without consent across various age groups, genders, and economic backgrounds

  • Most people do not consider it acceptable for websites (72%) and mobile apps (68%) to be aware of your physical location before an account is created

  • 55% of survey participants say it’s “creepy” when websites know their location when they first open them

  • Overall, participants are more comfortable sharing their location information if the mobile app or website asks for permission, or if location information is relevant to the task at hand

    (examples: Maps, ordering delivery, checking weather and traffic that understandably require a specific location)

  • Depending on the scenario, respondents preferred that websites or mobile apps not remember their location, or only track their location when they are actively using the website or app

Me2B Alliance, a non-profit standards and advocacy organization focused on safe and respectful technology, today published a Spotlight Report which illustrates the significance of permission, relevance, and control when it comes to location tracking in websites and mobile apps. According to Me2BA’s research, 55% of people say it is “creepy” when websites know their location when they are first opened. In total, 81% of respondents used at least one negative term, including creepy, bad, annoying, scary, and confusing, to describe location tracking in websites. 68% used those same negative terms to describe location tracking in mobile apps.

The Spotlight Report, “Consumer Sensitivity to Location Tracking by Websites and Mobile Apps”, was developed to validate the Location Commitment scoring criteria in the Me2B Alliance Safe & Respectful Technology Specification. The specification, produced by the Me2B Alliance’s Respectful Tech Spec Working Group, is designed to provide a standard for measuring safe and ethical behavior in connected technology. The core of the research was an online survey of 363 gender-balanced participants, aged 18 to 60+ and from various economic backgrounds, representing every state in the United States except Alaska and Montana.

Quantitative and qualitative studies were conducted to achieve a better understanding of consumers’ perception and tolerance for location tracking by digital technologies, such as websites and apps. The research explores participants’ understanding of what a location request is, how consumers feel about location tracking, and under what circumstances is location tracking acceptable.

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Key takeaways from the Spotlight Report:

  • People tend to have negative feelings toward a website or app that “knows your physical location when you first open it”
  • People are more tolerant of location sharing if they have an account with a website or app
  • When asked open-ended questions about whether location tracking is acceptable, people repeatedly highlighted a desire to give consent before sharing their location. The most common terms used in those open-ended responses were “ask” and “ask permission.”
  • Context serves an important purpose. People tend to be willing to provide location information for convenience’s sake if respectful practices are in place. Consent must be given and there must be a legitimate and understandable need for location information. i.e., GPS maps, delivery, checking weather of traffic in a specific location

“Research is the foundation of our efforts to create standards for safe and ethical technology,” said Lisa LeVasseur, executive director of Me2B Alliance. “We think location tracking on app open is wrong, but as a standards organization that is the voice and advocate of people across the internet, we don’t trust our opinions alone. We can only be sure by conducting research on how people —Me-s in our parlance — really feel. In this case, the research clearly shows we are right. The extensive findings in this survey validate that our scoring standards are solidly based on how people really feel about location tracking.”

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