As you may have read recently, some of the major mobile phone carriers are enacting policy changes regarding the distribution of location data to third-party processors. We want to assure our members that these recent changes will in no way impact the development of the Insights Suite, and provide some perspective on these issues.
First off, there are three major sources of location data being used at scale in advertising research to understand audience.
- Carrier Data – Gathered by telecom operators by interpreting cellular signals using a process called trilateration. Hundreds of observed locations for each device can be gathered each day. Information is very accurate, but location precision may be a hundred meters. There are very, very, very specific government regulations around the use cases, aggregate reporting levels, privacy protection, and security and handling of location data from carriers.
- Applications (SDKs) – Use the core location services of a mobile device’s operating system to pinpoint location using relevant sensors (GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, accelerometer, magnetometer, barometer). Useful location context is provided to the application and then often shared back with a central server. Data from applications can be very accurate and very precise, but the number of observations per device per day can vary greatly and occurs intermittently depending upon the app functions and number of apps installed and permissions/consent from the user.
- Bid-Stream – When an ad is requested and delivered to a mobile device, either in an app or on a publisher web site in a browser, there is the option of providing the location of the device in that bid request. This type of data has widely varying levels of accuracy and precision due to each publisher’s priorities. Another challenge with bid-stream data is that it is incredibly intermittent, and some devices have many observations per day while others are observed only once or twice a month.
After vetting Bid-Stream Data, we found it to be too imprecise, inconsistent, and ultimately inadequate to be utilized as part of our sophisticated measurement solution.
The Geopath Insights Suite includes a variety of data sources that allow us to achieve the precision and scale needed to measure OOH exposure across the entire United States. These data sources include multiple types of mobile data – specifically carrier data and GPS data. The location data resources that feed into Geopath Audience Measurement are curated by our partners at AirSage.
AirSage’s relationships with mobile carriers and mobile location data companies allow them to build a diversified data resource that can be leveraged to understand aggregate population movement in a precise yet responsible way.
Our partners have the utmost respect for privacy, and are ahead of the curve in responsible use of location data. In fact, AirSage’s approach to handling data is more protective of sensitive information than consumer friendly regulations, such as GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act, have proposed as best practices.
Our data is sourced by our partners in a responsible way, requiring them to operate their own secure data center environment with all the necessary and stringent telco privacy and security protocols, far beyond the minimum requirements. Source data consists of anonymized records that do not relate to any individual user and are further aggregated for our particular use case.
The carrier data that feeds into the Geopath solution to date was not and has never been bought on an open market, or through intermediaries like LocationSmart or Zumigo, which is the focus of the recent announcements. That is an entirely different business model, unrelated to AirSage.
We are proud of our responsible use of aggregated, anonymous location data, and will continue to keep data privacy and security a cornerstone of our data strategy.