Don’t know where you are? Phone 111

The location of people making calls to emergency services will soon be automatically tracked as the result of new technology and privacy laws.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards recently amended the Telecommunications Information Privacy Code to allow for caller locations to be collected to help respond to emergencies faster.

“In the last year, the police recorded over 1800 incidents in which they had to make a special request to a network operator for information about the caller’s location,” he said.

“Quick and automated access to location information about emergency callers should help to reduce this figure.”

With a “state-of-the-art” computer system providing the technology needed to log caller locations, Mr Edwards said it was important privacy laws were updated to match.

“This system does not require individual consent, so I have required robust transparency and accountability obligations,” he said.

I have no problems with this.  When we phoned from a landline, our location was revealed simply because the service address for the phone number you called from was already known.

With mobiles, that got harder. 

We all know that carrying a mobile around pin-points your location 24/7.  If you don’t like it, don’t have one.  But there are times that can be abused, so you should explicitly allow that information to be given out to a third party, rather than having it taken and used without your knowledge.

In the event of a 111 call, I’d rather press 111 and pass out on the ground knowing that someone is on the way.  It turns it into a type of emergency locator beacon really.

It also avoids stupid conversations when you try to call in your location from somewhere.  I remember smelling a gas leak in Wellington once, and there was a number on the local distribution box.  So I called it.  They had to know where I was calling from.  The ID of the box apparently wasn’t enough.  What street was I on?  I had no idea, I was on foot.  Could I see an intersecting road?  No.  And houses?  No.  No house numbers at all?  No.

I offered to give a GPS reference.  No dice.  Their response form needed an address otherwise they could not log the report about a gas leak.   It did my head in.

I do believe there should be a standardised way to describe your location.  SAR have only recently started to use GPS.  Not too many years ago they were still working off grid references on LINZ maps.  I’ve not checked recently, but not too long ago they were still maintaining both systems side by side.

In the end, 111 having access to the location the call is being made from is just common sense.  Only privacy purists could see anything wrong with that.

 

NZN via Yahoo! News

 


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