U.S. Agencies Plan a Public Forum on Location Services

Location-based services, the mobile-phone applications that make use of a person’s geographic location, are attracting growing attention in Washington following reports that phone and software companies might have been sharing location information with third parties.

To try to help consumers understand and navigate the services and their privacy implications, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission will conduct a public education forum on June 28 at F.C.C. headquarters in Washington, the agencies said on Tuesday.

Location-based services can be used to find, for example, a nearby restaurant, or to compare sale prices for an item with those at nearby stores. The technology is also being developed for use by public safety entities for emergency response. But regulators fear that privacy concerns might stunt the adoption and use of the services.

Representatives from consumer advocacy groups, mobile-phone companies, technology companies and equipment makers are scheduled to attend the forum to discuss how location-based services work, their benefits and risks, industry best practices and things consumers and parents need to know about their own or their children’s use of the technology.

Public comments can be submitted electronically before the meeting on the F.C.C.’s Web site or by mail; there will also be a short question-and-answer session at the event, an agency spokeswoman said.

The forum follows several Congressional hearings on privacy and mobile-phone data. Another one scheduled for Thursday by the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection will feature an F.T.C. official and executives from Apple, Google and Facebook, among others.

Source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/10/congress-hears-from-apple-and-google-on-privacy/