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Insights & Trends 5 min read

Can blockchain solve the privacy issues of location-based apps?

Can blockchain solve the privacy issues of location-based apps?

Could blockchain be the solution to the privacy issues surrounding location-based apps? It just might solve some of the common concerns of mobile users.

In recent years, the number of location-based services and location-based mobile apps has been increasing noticeably, mostly due of the rapid mass adoption of smartphones and tablets. These services and apps utilize geo-location to provide users with accurate and targeted information for locating friends on a map, discovering nearby social events, using location-aware dating apps, generating alerts about traffic jams, verifying the authenticity of transactions, and much more.

For such services and apps to work properly, it is essential that the geographic location claimed by a user’s device is real. A variety of centralized verification approaches are currently being used but they do not fully guarantee privacy protection for their users.

With user privacy being such a hot topic as of late, it’s no wonder many companies seek to achieve a factual verification of the geographic location of their users while ensuring a high level of user privacy. Most consumers are uncertain about giving out their private location data to an unknown entity, even though they understand that location services improve their experience.

One interesting solution could be to leverage a decentralized, infrastructure-independent proof-of-location scheme based on blockchain technology. The decentralized nature of peer-to-peer systems, such as blockchain, removes the need for a central authority and alleviates the fear of someone being aware of both the geographic location of users and the information they exchange.

Proof of location

The main feature that differentiates the blockchain from all other distributed databases is its completely decentralized nature. It uses a network of communicating nodes that validate pieces of information and add them to their own local copy of the blockchain in such a way that distributed consensus about the stored information is established among the independent network nodes. This makes it impossible for false information to be recorded on the blockchain as being true. In the Bitcoin virtual currency system, the Bitcoin blockchain is used to store information in the form of proofs of transactions made on it. In the same manner, a forward-thinking blockchain startup can create its own blockchain that can be used to store proofs of geographical location. In fact, several startups are already doing just that.

Three interesting players

Platin is a blockchain protocol that supports the issuance of location credentials, enabling applications to obtain secure location claims anywhere in the world, in real-time. Platin’s secure location capabilities provide a way for people to own and control their personal location data securely and decide how and to whom it can be exposed. This is made possible through open, privacy-preserving, zero-knowledge proofs of location constantly being verified on Platin’s blockchain. The blockchain protocol extends the World Wide Web standards of interoperability, openness and privacy to location.

Businesses benefit as well because they can control and limit the sharing of data with search engine sites and social media entities, as well as with mobile network operators. This way they can gain the trust of their users and quickly conform to unexpected government regulations such as GDPR.

XYO Network’s blockchain provides integration with e-commerce businesses and offers the ability to protect everyone from fraud by ensuring that consumers only pay for goods that actually arrive in their homes.

XYO Network meticulously tracks the location of the package being sent to the consumer, from the warehouse shelf to the shipping courier and all the way into the consumer's home. This enables e-commerce retailers to verify that the package not only appeared on the customer's doorstep, but was also brought safely inside their home. Once the blockchain protocol confirms a successful delivery via proof of location, the order is considered complete and the payment to the vendor gets automatically released through a blockchain smart contract.

FOAM is an open protocol for decentralized, geospatial data markets. The protocol is designed to empower users to build a consensus-driven map of the world that can be trusted for every application. It utilizes the Ethereum blockchain protocol to provide computational work and proof-of-location verification to the network.

FOAM hopes that proof of location will play a key role in opening new marketplaces enabled by privacy-preserving location data. Supply chain management, autonomous vehicle and ride sharing, gaming, and the Internet of Things (IoT) all stand to potentially benefit from secure verified location data that can be used to prevent fraud.

George Koynov

George Koynov

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