Ask the Expert: Mobile Location Data Policy Changes

Apple’s latest iPhone isn’t the only mobile announcement that marketers need to pay attention to this fall. Both Apple and Google have announced recent location data policy changes. Apple plans to alert users to location data tracking with a blue bar at the top of the screen, which should give users more insight into which apps are requesting their data. Google is trying out a different approach with Android, limiting the frequency with which apps can ask for location data from every few minutes to a few times per hour. We spoke with Ocean Fine at Factual to get her take on these announcements:

How Will Location Data Policy Changes Affect Mobile Marketers?

Q&A with Ocean Fine

As the VP of Agencies and Strategic Partners at Factual, Ocean is responsible for driving awareness and adoption of the company’s Location Targeting Ad Solutions. A digital advertising veteran with 15 years experience working for and with agencies and brands, she loves working on the newest technologies in mobile and has a proven track record for building and growing teams that focus on all aspects of mobile channel enablement, from sales, strategy, and planning to launching first-to-market innovative mobile companies.

How will the upcoming Android and iOS location data policy changes impact the advertising industry as a whole?

The forthcoming changes in iOS 11 will force the advertising industry to be more transparent, and transparency is a good thing. Consumer trust is paramount, and at Factual we have always treated consumer data with the utmost respect. Consumers should be empowered to understand and control when and how their data is shared. We applaud Apple’s efforts to bring more transparency and consumer control to their app ecosystems. Android O is taking a similar approach to limiting location data in the background by decreasing the number of requests to a few per hour. If more frequent location data is needed, developers will have to bring their app to the foreground or utilize a foreground service. In the same sense as iOS 11, it will limit apps from passively collecting user location data. Both the Android and iOS changes don’t affect apps using geofences and some other forms of low power consumption, location-based data enrichment.

Do you see a significant difference in impact between Android’s changes in data collection frequency and Apple’s decision to alert consumers more clearly about location tracking?

Android’s changes may have a lower impact since their approach is a bit more passive. Android seems to be deciding for the consumer by limiting the frequency of location data collection, while Apple ensures consumers understand what data they are sharing and ultimately puts the choice in the hands of the user. Time will tell regarding the impact of each change. Remember geolocation data is supplied by multiple sources, including advertising services providers, mobile app service providers, and data aggregators. Bid stream data may not see as much of an impact.

Will these changes affect Factual?

This will mostly impact data providers relying on opaque or questionable data acquisition practices. Transparency and data quality are among Factual’s key differentiators, and we have always strived to establish partnerships with high-quality data sources. We do not believe these changes will significantly impact the breadth of our data partnerships or the scale of our data assets. If anything, it will continue our focus on working with reliable companies and partners and highlight our efforts to build products that support the industry in collecting and processing compliant and highly accurate location data.

How do you see these changes fitting in with the larger industry trend of moving toward more transparency?

These changes put more control in the consumer’s hands (no pun intended…as they update their setting on their mobile phone). This is not a new discussion point for marketers and publishers. We talk to our partners regularly about the value exchange of collecting location data through their customer-facing applications. For example, “What value does a publisher provide a user in exchange for their location data?” These changes will only amplify the importance of this value exchange and build stronger trust and better customer experiences for the publishers that do it right. We’ve also seen a few companies move toward a more transparent business model—i.e., unbundling data from media buying. Marketers and agencies want transparency, and it’s quite difficult to provide transparency on data quality when it is bundled with media. We will see more companies make this transition, and new companies that enter the space will follow. At Factual, we believe in transparency. It is one of our core cultural values, and we have always built our products with transparency in mind. For example, our data is freely available on our website for viewing and exploration.

What can advertisers do to prepare for these changes?

Marketers need to research the changes and be aware of when they begin, but they should also look to their trusted partners, like Goodway Group and Factual, to help navigate the ever-changing mobile and data landscape. Be sure to ask your partners where their location data is coming from and how it is collected. It’s important to understand the partnerships, technology, and processes they have put in place to ensure the best product and compliance.