‘“It should allow me to opt in or opt out”: Investigating smartphone use and the contending attitudes of commuters towards geolocation data collection

Earvin Cabalquinto, Brett Hutchins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


A valuable body of literature critiques the ways in which data generated by individuals through their smartphone and mobile media use are collected and controlled by governments, state-based institutions and corporations. However, alongside this much-needed critical scholarship, it is necessary to identify the specific attitudes of users towards locational data collection activities and, by extension, the differing levels of socio-technical literacy that exist among smartphone users. This article presents evidence of the attitudes of train commuters about the geolocation mapping of their movement via smartphone Wi-Fi signals. Involving significant methodological challenges, the study used Simple Observation combined with a three-question survey of 100 commuters completed at a major train station in Melbourne, Australia, over a three-day period. Based on the evidence collected and analysed, the findings show that attitudes are grouped into six categories: (1) in favour, (2) in favour with guarantees, (3) sceptical, (4) staunchly opposed, (5) confused, and (6) apathetic. We propose that publicly visible initiatives to raise awareness about the collection and utilisation of smartphone data are essential to inform citizens about their locational privacy, especially given the continuing spread of sensor-based monitoring systems in public spaces and so-called smart cities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101403
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalTelematics and Informatics
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Wi-Fi
  • Smartphones
  • Geolocation
  • Locative media
  • Locational privacy
  • Mobilities
  • Public transport

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