Digital Maps and Privacy Concerns: What You Need to Know

In 1980, the world started seeing a huge shift from tradition towards what some refer to as the digital revolution. Also known as the fourth industrial revolution, this era focuses a lot on the development of artificial intelligence (AI). When it comes to data collection and interpretation, this technology plays an incredibly important role. However, while this data is crucial for developers, marketers, and businesses, the more and more they require from users, the more wary these users become. 

Why do they need my personal information?

What do they plan to use it for?

How do they keep my data safe from hackers?

What do I get out of this?

In this blog post, we hope to answer the popular questions around the rising level of concern regarding the data privacy of digital maps. If you want to know more about how these maps gather and use your personal data, you’ll want to stick around!

Let’s start with the “Why?”

There are a few reasons why developers gather personal data from users:

  1. Personalization: To tailor services and content to individual users. Personalized experiences include recommendations, remembering preferences, and displaying relevant information.
  1. Service Improvement: To understand how users interact with the application and identify areas that can be improved. Development requires ongoing attention and includes fixing bugs, optimizing performance, and adding features that users want or need.
  1. Analytics: To gather insights on usage patterns like the most visited pages or features, peak usage times, and user engagement levels. This is very helpful in making data-driven decisions about where to allocate resources.
  1. Security: To make sure they keep out security threats and prevent unauthorized users from attacking their databases, they need to know who’s using it to begin with. User data helps to monitor suspicious behavior and defend against potential cyber attacks.
  1. Legal Requirements: There are many laws and regulations to consider for site development. These include tax laws, consumer protection laws, and data protection regulations like GDPR. Collecting certain information may be a legal requirement rather than a choice.
  1. Location-Based Services: This applies to apps that rely on geolocation and geospatial analysis, such as mapping or ride-sharing services. Collecting location data is a necessary part of accuracy and relevance.
  1. Machine Learning and AI Training: To train and improve machine learning models and AI algorithms requires large amounts of data. If you want the AI to understand patterns and make accurate predictions, you need to feed it the correct, up-to-date data.
  1. Market Research: From a marketing perspective, data helps to gain an understanding of your target audience. You’ll gain valuable insight into market trends, customer demographics, and preferences.

8 Important Digital Mapping Privacy Concerns (And How To Protect Yourself)

1. Location Tracking

For many digital map services, you have to grant the app access to your exact location. In order to give you directions, it needs to know where you are as a starting point. While this is a necessary part for using these apps, there are steps you can take to protect your privacy.

Protect your privacy by:

  • Turning off your location when it’s not needed.
  • Only granting location access to apps that need it for core functionality.
  • Adjusting app permissions to limit location tracking to only while using the app.

2. Data Collection and Usage

Websites are required to disclaim that they’re collecting user data, along with the reason for collection. The type of data they collect depends on their services offered. It might include search histories, directions requested, and sometimes even the speed at which you’re traveling. 

Protect your privacy by:

  • Reviewing and adjusting the app’s privacy settings to reduce how much data is collected.
  • Regularly clearing your search and location history.
  • Understanding the privacy policies of the services you use to understand how your data is being used.

3. Data Sharing

Digital map services may share your information with third parties. This includes advertisers, insurance companies, or law enforcement, under certain conditions. It’s important to understand the service provider’s privacy policy regarding data sharing.

Protect your privacy by:

  • Opting out of data sharing options in app settings whenever possible.
  • Using alternative apps that are more privacy-focused.

4. Storage and Security 

The data collected is typically stored on the service provider’s servers. These servers aren’t always well protected and could be vulnerable to security breaches like hacking. In these cases, your location history could be exposed.

Protect your privacy by:

  • Using strong passwords and two-factor authentication for your accounts.
  • Regularly updating apps and operating systems to make sure you have the latest security measures in place.

5. User Control

Many digital map services offer privacy settings that allow you to control the level of location tracking or to delete your location history. It’s crucial to review and adjust these settings to match your comfort level with data sharing.

Protect your privacy by:

  • Regularly review and manage your location settings and app permissions.
  • Take advantage of privacy controls offered by the app to delete your location history or manage data retention preferences.

6. Legal Protections and Regulations

Different countries have different laws around data protection and privacy. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in European countries gives people more control over their personal data.

Protect your privacy by:

  • Staying informed about your rights under privacy laws, such as GDPR or CCPA. These laws give you the power to request data deletion or access to the data collected about you.
  • Opting out of data collection and processing where you can.

7. Incognito Modes

Some mapping services offer the option to use their app or website in a mode that doesn’t save your activity to your account. It’s important to know that even in these modes, the service provider may still collect data for other purposes. 

Protect your privacy by:

  • Using incognito or private modes when available to prevent your activity from being saved to your account.
  • Understanding the limitations of these modes and what data might still be collected.

8. Service Reliability 

We all know that mapping technology can be unreliable and unpredictable at times. Whether you’re dealing with bugs, power outages, or system updates, it’s important to know how to protect your data.

Protect your privacy by:

  • Keeping backups of important data or routes if you rely on digital maps for important activities for when the service is unavailable.
  • Have a contingency plan. Consider carrying a physical map or having a backup app installed, in case your first choice fails.

What to remember…

In a world that’s so technologically-advanced and showing no signs of slowing down, it’s important to think about how private your device really is. Consider ways of protecting your personal information from people with bad intentions. As AI becomes smarter, so do hackers aiming to use its data. There are VPN, anti-viruses, and strategies that you can put a barrier between you and cyber attackers. 

There are two sides to every coin, and in this case, there are those who carelessly accept cookies and terms and conditions without reading the fine print, and there are those who actively try to keep their private information as such. Make sure the people you give your information to have taken the necessary precautions to protect it. 

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