It is expected that the EU data protection watchdogs will tell the European Commission that the location data stored by mobile phones should be considered personal data, and therefore receive a high level of protection. If accepted by the Commission, it is highly likely that provisions will be written into the Data Protection Directive later on in the year for the protection of location-based data.
This advice follows worrying reports that mobiles such as the iPhone and those containing Google’s Android interface store location data in an unencrypted manner, allowing potential hackers to see all your movements for the preceding months or even years.
The New York Times has reported that the Article 29 working party will explain its findings this Friday, where it is highly likely their report will contain opinions about geographic locations. This body contains regulators of data protection from all 27 member countries, operating independently of the Commission to avoid any conflict of interest.
Matthew Newman, a spokesman for the Commission's vice president Viviane Reding, said that protecting personal data obtained through new technologies was a priority for the Commission. Reding is leading a review of European privacy laws. Newman said:
"The Commission is currently analysing all forms of new technology and we will take into consideration social network sites and the rise of data-sharing like photos and the use of cloud computing and behavioural advertising when we reform the Data Protection Directive later this year.
"The technology has moved on in leaps and bounds since the Directive came into force more than 15 years ago, so what we want to do is see how people are using the technologies and how that relates to personal data to make sure that people's fundamental rights are protected.”
Location data from your mobile phone is self evidently personal data and should be treated as such in law. It's just a shame it's the EU, not Westminster who are stepping up to take action on this issue.