Location data privacy: principles to practice

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Location data is essential to the provision of relevant and tailored information in location-based services (LBS) but has the potential to reveal sensitive information about users. Unwanted disclosure of location data is associated with various threats known as dataveillance which can lead to risks like loss of control, (continuous) monitoring, identification, and social profiling. Striking a balance between providing a service based on the user’s location while protecting their (location) privacy is thus a key challenge in this area. Although many solutions have been developed to mitigate the data privacy-related threats, the aspects involving users (i.e. User Interfaces (UI)) and the way in which location data management can affects (location) data privacy have not received much attention in the literature. This thesis develops and evaluates approaches to facilitate the design and development of privacy-aware LBS. This work has explicitly focused on three areas: location data management in LBS, the design of UI for LBS, and compliance with (location) data privacy regulation. To address location data management, this thesis proposes modifications to LBS architectures and introduces the concept of temporal and spatial ephemerality as an alternative way to manage location privacy. The modifications include adding two components to the LBS architecture: one component dedicated to the management of decisions regarding collected location data such as applying restriction on the time that the service provider stores the data; and one component for adjusting location data privacy settings for the users of LBS. This thesis then develops a set of UI controls for fine-grained management of location privacy settings based on privacy theory (Westin), privacy by design principles and general UI design principles. Finally, this thesis brings forth a set of guidelines for the design and development of privacy-aware LBS through the analysis of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and expert recommendations. Service providers, designers, and developers of LBS can benefit from the contributions of this work as the proposed architecture and UI model can help them to recognise and address privacy issues during the LBS development process. The developed guidelines, on the other hand, can be helpful when developers and designers face difficulties understanding (location) data privacy-related regulations. The guidelines include both a list of legal requirements derived from GDPR’s text and expert suggestions for developers and designers of LBS in the process of complying with data privacy regulation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS)
  • University of Münster
  • Universidad Jaume I
  • Kray, Christian, Supervisor, External person
  • Santos, Vítor, Supervisor
  • Ramos, Francisco, Supervisor, External person
Award date16 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2018


  • Location data
  • Location-based services


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