Who knows where you are? | ACMA

Who knows where you are?

ACMA Media Release 100- 20 December 2012

Australians love their GPS' and mobile location apps, but do they understand what's happening as they go from A to B?

Australian Communications and Media Authority research released today indicates that while more than 80 per cent of Australians surveyed have used a location service to get directions at least once a week, there is a general lack of awareness about how information and personal data may be shared when using these services.

'As a consequence, many consumers lack the ability to choose appropriate protection options,' said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

'While the take-up of location services is growing, the ACMA's research shows that consumers have a limited understanding of how their personal information may be shared, used, stored and controlled. Almost half of users surveyed did not even know it was possible to turn off location services.'

The report, Here, there and everywhere-Consumer behaviour and location services, also found that 72 per cent of consumers surveyed used a location service via their mobile at least once a week. And around a third of Australians surveyed (38 per cent) use location services related to social interactions at least twice a day.

However, the sale and ownership of information and risks associated with disclosure were key concerns for the majority of users, with 71 per cent worried about information being sold to a third party and 58 per cent concerned about the lack of details on where the data goes and who owns it.

According to the report, the most common uses of these services are to:

  • get directions (95 per cent)
  • check in and share your location with friends (76 per cent)
  • get local weather (74 per cent)
  • find local entertainment and dining options (47 per cent)
  • find ATMs, petrol stations and other services (47 per cent).

Users meanwhile identified these particular concerns:

  • consumer consent and information - the need for information about the collection, storage, sharing and security of personal information by location services and the seeking of explicit consent for these activities
  • managing personal risk - the awareness and ability for consumers to manage the implications of linking personal information and location identifiers where the information may result in an unwanted disclosure of their location
  • managing privacy - consumers' awareness and ability to manage the collection, and sharing of their personal information with other entities, both by themselves and location service providers.

'Consumers can take effective steps to protect themselves and their information, which was a key rationale behind conducting this research. They need to empower themselves,' Mr Chapman said.

What you can do:

  • check security and information collection settings for location services you use
  • set appropriate privacy settings to control who sees your information
  • check-in just before leaving a location, to tell others where you have been rather than where you are
  • give serious consideration to opting-out of location services, and use do-not-track options on smartphones and browsers where available
  • don't share details - if you're not sure whether you're posting too much information, then don't post it
  • turn-off location services on your device when you are not using them.

Here, there and everywhere-Consumer behaviour and location services offers further advice and extensive information about how location services work.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Blake Murdoch, on (02) 9334 7817, 0434 567 391 or media@acma.gov.au.


The ACMA's research and information program supports its business and organisational objectives by providing strategic economic, industry, technical, social and regulatory design research capacity.

A primary objective is to understand and identify the uses and potential uses of communications and media services and technologies. This helps the ACMA make informed decisions with an understanding of the implications for consumers and citizens in the regulation of communications and media markets.

Use of location services is an area of growing interest to the ACMA, reflecting its regulatory responsibilities in areas that have historically provided consumer location information, such as telephone numbers. Location information is being integrated increasingly with a wide range of communications services and applications, and despite their growing popularity, there is only limited information about the use of location services and applications in Australia and the regulatory protections afforded to Australian users.

As part of its research, the ACMA sought to examine consumer experiences of location services and the regulatory environment within which they operate through the occasional paper Here, there and everywhere-Consumer behaviour and location services and related community research. The occasional paper explores what location services are and how they work. It draws on the community research to identify consumers' understanding and expectations of location applications.

For the community research, the ACMA commissioned Urbis to undertake the qualitative and quantitive research in Location services, personal information and identity to provide insights into consumer attitudes, behaviours and perceptions of location services. In addition, the ACMA undertook supplementary quantitative research into the use of location services by Australian adults as part of its research into Australia's progress in the digital economy. Research for this report was conducted by Roy Morgan Research for the ACMA.

The combination of the research components provides a broad picture of the use of location services on mobile phones and tablets in Australia. The research identified specific concerns, information and expectations about the protection of personal information. This work examines the design of appropriate protections and risk-management strategies, along with identifying the relevant responsibilities of individuals, industry service providers and government.

Last updated: 08 May 2017