How Does the Accuracy of Geo-Location Technologies Affect the Law?

Dan Jerker B. Svantesson

Abstract

Geo-location technologies allow website operators to identify the geographical location of those who visit their websites. Having knowledge of an access-seeker’s geographicallocation means that they can provide content targeted to that location.This has several uses. For example, it enables the website operator to:
I. Provide advertisements relevant for the access-seeker’s particular location;
II. Restrict access to content that may be unlawful in certain jurisdictions;
III. Restrict access to content that the website operator is licensed to provide only in a limited geographical area; and
IV. Avoid entering into transactions with people from locations known to be “fraud hot-spots”.

The accuracy of geo-location technologies is obviously of fundamental importance for all these uses. However, the consequences of providing advertisementsaimed at the wrong location may be far less serious than, for example, failing to restrict access to content that the website operator is licensed to provide only in a limitedgeographical area. In situations where a website operator seeks to rely on the use of a geo-location technology to argue that it has met its legal obligations, the accuracylevels of the geo-location technology used may indeed be determinative. 

Having provided a brief overview of how geo-location technologies work, this
paper examines how accurate they are. As part of that discussion, recommendationsare made for how courts ought to approach the use of geo-location technologies. 

 

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