Geolocation check-ins face privacy concerns

More smartphone users are utilizing geolocation technology, but check-in services have lagged due to a lack of assurance about privacy, a recent Pew Research study shows.

Nearly three-quarters (75 percent) of respondents said they use their smartphones to get real-time location-based information about products or services in their area. This marks a significant increase from May 2011, when the figure was just 55 percent.

Part of the rise may be because an increasing number of people own smartphones. Specifically, 35 percent of U.S. adults owned a smartphone in 2011 - that number has grown to 46 percent today. This has concurrently led to a greater amount of people obtaining geolocation information (23 percent in May 2011 to 41 percent in February 2012).

While more people use foursquare today to check-in at certain locations than they did last year (18 percent from 12 percent), overall adoption rates have struggled due to privacy concerns.

A recent release from marketing agency White Horse found that 60 percent of smartphone users still aren't using geolocation services for local search, the most common reason being that they're just not interested (56 percent), followed by concerns about the technology (24 percent).

The report, Lost in Geolocation: Why Consumers Haven't Bought It and How Marketers Can Fix It, notes that consumers either have difficulty understanding the benefits of location technology, feel that apps are redundant to how they already communicate or have privacy concerns about giving out their location information.

What needs to happen is marketers must clearly state the value of exchanging location information, how it is used and collected (for ad targeting purposes) and why it's safe to use.

"To think that users will adopt a branded geolocation app that is unmoored from existing social experiences is not realistic," says the report. "Instead, the approach we recommend is to mine existing networks for rich insight about customer behaviors and needs, and use this information to generate ideas for appropriate location-based experiences."

Pew notes that the most popular location-based activities that users partake in include finding maps and directions using apps such as Google Maps. Specifically, 93 percent of those polled said they use geolocation services to get directions and information. They're also using the services for photography purposes (i.e. taking a picture of the place they checked in at) and making restaurant reservations.