“Network Tourism: A Fallacy of Location Privacy!”

Gonçalo Jorge Morais da Costa, Nuno Sotero Alves da Silva and Piotr Pawlak


Tourism is a global trend which engages a key role in economics, which in 2007 represented over 745 billion dollars (World Trade Organization, 2007). Still, in accordance to the same institution tourism can be defined as: “the activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes” (World Tourism Organization, 1994: 5). However, the research question of this contribution is not to debate extensively the economic performance of tourism, but if it is possible to state that “locational” privacy in tourism is a fallacy?

The Oxford English Dictionary (2008) acknowledges that the word “tour” is originally Greek, and it means a tool for describing a circle. The word “tour”, in a tourism sense entails a French origin, for the verb: “tourner”. In fact, the first time that “tourism” was used was in 1811, and in the early 19th century “tourist” was predominantly used in an English context, referring to those who went to England!

Today the concept “tourist” refers to everyone that travels for leisure, business and other purposes, and due to ICT (mobile phones, wireless networks, gps, location-based services, etc.) can be always “wired” to the surrounding world (network tourism). In fact, some authors plead the concept of virtual tourist. According to Carlvik and Jonsson (2001: 273) “it is a group of people between 14 to 35 years old that “travels without travelling”, and that uses systematically ICT”. Therefore, it is possible to locate them 24 hours a day through equipment and software (Heikkila and Silven, 2004), leading to serious ethical issues relating to personal privacy.

Due to several threats that global society imposes to national security, societies tend to create legislation to control informational fluxes of personal data. An example of this reality is for instance the Patriot Act in United States. After 9/11 the American Congress adopted this legislation, pursuant to which all Internet and ICT operators must oversee communication in the Internet. Furthermore, the federal agencies have access to connections and private accounts (the authorities can inspect e-mails, control telephone calls and record them, etc.) (Bierzanek and Symonides, 2005).

Although data protection is the top priority of digital solutions, the truth is that is all about information mobility and data saving, reading and processing through multiple technological platforms. At the same time, particular countries (acting jointly or separately) seek to oversee data as much as possible, which leads to contradictory result concerning these three trends. Yet, they all stem from specific moral, social and political values, which in turn are expressed in the acts of (international and national) law, such as: Resolution 45/95 of December 14, 1990 adopted by the UN General Assembly or Convention 108 of the Council of Europe of 1981. The protection of personal data, and consequently the right to privacy are human rights (Sokolowski, 2004).

Moreover, in spite of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) (2007) policy for personal data follow the EU Data Protection Act 1998; it seems to exist several policy vacuums: who controls the liability of this process? Who controls the personal data gathered by the several tourism agents (agencies, hotels, car rental, etc.)? And, which institutions have access to this array of personal data?

Following the etymological roots of control, it is possible to acknowledge that is a “power” that directly determines a situation; a relation of constraint of one entity (thing or person or group) by another, or, the state that exists when one person or group has power over another (Online Etymological Dictionary, 2001). So, we may claim that the aim of control is to promote a perception of security, and following Stahl (2007) privacy and security are intrinsically bounded.

In an explanatory meaning, security as a concept is complement in diverse languages, reproducing the affairs between object (subject) and its environment. Nevertheless it is imperative that security is a normative, an emotionally loaded idea (Mesjasz, 2004). Typically security is categorized in:

  • a traditional meaning- security as an attribute of state, absence of military conflict (Kaldor, 2007);
  • a broader sense- referring directly to a phenomena occurring in international relations, or directly/indirectly caused by inter-state relations security as a public good (Deudney, 2004);
  • a universal sense (of a unit and of a social entity)- human security (Nickel, 2007).

Therefore, we claim that location privacy clearly demonstrates the trade-off concerning personal privacy of tourists and societal control.


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