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People avoid too automatic location information in mobile services

07 July 2009 Aalto University

People shun fully automatic location information web and mobile services if the user cannot control them easily. Researchers at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT found out in their study that people start using automatic location information services only if the services are clearly useful to users and if the users can easily control the information flow.

The study to be published at MobiQuitous 2009 conference is the first one on the mobile services publishing automatically location information from the user's point of view. Researchers Sami Vihavainen, Antti Oulasvirta and Risto Sarvas discovered that many people ignore or switch off friends' or the user's own location information flow if automation makes it too difficult to manage the information being published. If the service providers want to attract users to use the services, users should be given a chance to edit the information or the automation should meet the exact needs of the desired target group.

According to the study many people avoid telling their own location to friends because they don't want to reveal everything or the automation may give false information. For instance, the system may tell that the user is in a pub even though he is at a gym at the same building with a pub. If a user cannot change the information by himself, he does not use the service. For many users it is also irrelevant to know where the friends are at a current moment.

Network society is one of the research areas of Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT. HIIT is a joint research institute of Helsinki University of Technology TKK and the University of Helsinki for basic and strategic research on information technology.


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