Location data is subjected to heavy scrutiny by security experts. Knowing the current position of a person, vehicle, or asset can provide industries with many benefits, whether to understand where a current delivery is, how many people are inside a venue, or to optimize routing for a fleet of vehicles. This blog post explains how Amazon Web Services (AWS) helps keep location data secured in transit and at rest, and how you can leverage additional security features to help keep information safe and compliant.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) defines personal data as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (…) such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person.” Also, many companies wish to improve transparency to users, making it explicit when a particular application wants to not only track their position and data, but also to share that information with other apps and websites. Your organization needs to adapt to these changes quickly to maintain a secure stance in a competitive environment.

On June 1, 2021, AWS made Amazon Location Service generally available to customers. With Amazon Location, you can build applications that provide maps and points of interest, convert street addresses into geographic coordinates, calculate routes, track resources, and invoke actions based on location. The service enables you to access location data with developer tools and to move your applications to production faster with monitoring and management capabilities.

In this blog post, we will show you the features that Amazon Location provides out of the box to keep your data safe, along with best practices that you can follow to reach the level of security that your organization strives to accomplish.

Data control and data rights

Amazon Location relies on global trusted providers Esri and HERE Technologies to provide high-quality location data to customers. Features like maps, places, and routes are provided by these AWS Partners so solutions can have data that is not only accurate but constantly updated.

AWS anonymizes and encrypts location data at rest and during its transmission to partner systems. In parallel, third parties cannot sell your data or use it for advertising purposes, following our service terms. This helps you shield sensitive information, protect user privacy, and reduce organizational compliance risks. To learn more, see the Amazon Location Data Security and Control documentation.

Integrations

Operationalizing location-based solutions can be daunting. It’s not just necessary to build the solution, but also to integrate it with the rest of your applications that are built in AWS. Amazon Location facilitates this process from a security perspective by integrating with services that expedite the development process, enhancing the security aspects of the solution.

Encryption

Amazon Location uses AWS owned keys by default to automatically encrypt personally identifiable data. AWS owned keys are a collection of AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) keys that an AWS service owns and manages for use in multiple AWS accounts. Although AWS owned keys are not in your AWS account, Amazon Location can use the associated AWS owned keys to protect the resources in your account.

If customers choose to use their own keys, they can benefit from AWS KMS to store their own encryption keys and use them to add a second layer of encryption to geofencing and tracking data.

Authentication and authorization

Amazon Location also integrates with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), so that you can use its identity-based policies to specify allowed or denied actions and resources, as well as the conditions under which actions are allowed or denied on Amazon Location. Also, for actions that require unauthenticated access, you can use unauthenticated IAM roles.

As an extension to IAM, Amazon Cognito can be an option if you need to integrate your solution with a front-end client that authenticates users with its own process. In this case, you can use Cognito to handle the authentication, authorization, and user management for you. You can use Cognito unauthenticated identity pools with Amazon Location as a way for applications to retrieve temporary, scoped-down AWS credentials. To learn more about setting up Cognito with Amazon Location, see the blog post Add a map to your webpage with Amazon Location Service.

Limit the scope of your unauthenticated roles to a domain

When you are building an application that allows users to perform actions such as retrieving map tiles, searching for points of interest, updating device positions, and calculating routes without needing them to be authenticated, you can make use of unauthenticated roles.

When using unauthenticated roles to access Amazon Location resources, you can add an extra condition to limit resource access to an HTTP referer that you specify in the policy. The aws:referer request context value is provided by the caller in an HTTP header, and it is included in a web browser request.

The following is an example of a policy that allows access to a Map resource by using the aws:referer condition, but only if the request comes from the domain example.com.

{
  "Version": "2012-10-17",
  "Statement": [
    {
      "Sid": "MapsReadOnly",
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": [
        "geo:GetMapStyleDescriptor",
        "geo:GetMapGlyphs",
        "geo:GetMapSprites",
        "geo:GetMapTile"
      ],
      "Resource": "arn:aws:geo:us-west-2:111122223333:map/MyMap",
      "Condition": {
        "StringLike": {
          "aws:Referer": "<https://www.example.com/*>"
        }
      }
    }
  ]
}
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