Trafficview service not a privacy concern: Optus

Anonymous data collection means new location-based service not a stalker's new best friend, the telco argues

While relying heavily on location-based customer data, Optus’ new Trafficview service should not be a cause for privacy or personal security alarm, according to the telco.

The newly announced Trafficview service analyses a combination of Optus 2G and 3G mobile data to assess a user’s location then compares this to road networks.

Despite this, the service could not be used to track a person’s exact location or movements, according to Optus, as traffic alerts could not be sent to another Optus account name or mobile number.

“Optus Trafficview delivers alerts to the mobile number that signed up to the Trafficview service via the website and agreed to the terms and conditions of the offer,” an Optus spokesperson told Computerworld Australia.

The Optus spokesperson did not state whether this was to avoid issues with privacy, but rather so that specific journey alerts could be sent to that number “as per that user's saved journeys and selected alert settings for time of day and day of week”.

The spokesperson also said that the service could not be used to give a specific location of where the mobile device was located down to a street or even suburb level.

“The service is designed to report traffic flow for major roads,” the spokesperson said. “It contains no individual user information, all information is aggregated by roads.

“No individual user is identified in any traffic feed as this is removed at time of data collection and the observations are aggregated in timed road segment blocks.”

While mobile location-based services are increasingly on the rise for their ability to help users find nearby businesses or get directions, they have also prompted concerns that advertisers, government agencies and even stalkers can use the same services to track users every move.

Google recently attracted attention when it inadvertently collected some data traffic flowing over secured wireless networks through its Streetview fleet of cards, prompting security concerns from the Privacy Commissioner and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

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