Jean-Michel Durocher, Webraska’s CEO proposes “Three Laws of Location-Based Services”

Jean-Michel Durocher, Webraska’s CEO proposes “Three Laws of Location-Based Services”

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At a time when services based on the automatic location of wireless subscribers are being launched around the world, and following many months of hot debate across the telecom industry concerning conflicting demands for regulation, privacy concerns and free availability of subscriber location data, Webraska is pleased to share the “Three Laws Of Location Based Services” proposed by Jean-Michel Durocher, the company’s CEO and Founder.

The laws, based on Isaac Asimov’s ground-breaking “Three Laws of Robotics” were presented to senior representatives from wireless carriers Webraska’s recent Customer Council on May 31. Following a warm reception to the presentation Webraska is now publishing Durocher’s “Three laws of LBS” in the hope that their adoption will lead to responsible use of location data by the wireless industry and provide reassurance to a public worried about the potential for abuse of accurate subscriber location data.

The automatic location of mobile phones, and with it the opportunity to enhance the safety, quality of life or productivity of all mobile users, is now a reality. Applications such as ‘what is the nearest?’ finder services, ‘Where am I, How do I get there?’ maps, direction, traffic and navigation services, ‘Where are my friends, my colleagues, my children?’ and similar sharing and community services, have been launched around the world by telecom operators using middleware provided by Webraska and other companies. Entertainment, m-commerce, and business applications are already under trial or just around the corner.

Asimov became famous with a series of books and novels he wrote in the 40s and 50s about robots, and how they would influence our lives. Because of the fear that people have of robots, the so-called Frankenstein syndrome, Asimov’s robots had been factory designed so that would always be subject to 3 laws. Here they are: Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” (1947)
First Law:
A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Second Law:
A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law:
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Drawing a parallel from these, Mr Durocher has suggested that the LBS industry adopts the “Three Laws Of Location-Based Services”:

First Law:
Location, through its availability or non-availability, must not allow a human being to come to harm.
Second Law:
The availability of one’s Location must be in one’s complete control, except where such control would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law:
The providers of location-based services must be allowed to create a profitable business from these services as long as such business does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The first law addresses the requirements of the E911 FCC regulation: emergency services must be able to locate people when they make emergency calls. At the same time, no services should put mobile users in danger.

The second law would ensure that LBS services are voluntary, that privacy is always preserved. In normal circumstances, a subscriber should always be able to prevent others from locating him or her. But at the same time, in emergency situations, it might be impossible for the subscriber to provide the necessary life-saving authorization. And in some cases, the police will want to (and already do) track cellular phone usage to locate dangerous criminals.

Finally, the third law stresses the fact that location alone, for the sake of it, like any technology, is not enough. Service providers must find the way to charge for the services and develop the right business models. Applications must bring real value that consumers and business users will be willing to pay for. However, the third law also ensures that no business should be able to benefit from the availability of location data, to the detriment of a mobile user’s right to complete privacy and safety.