Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

There Is a Multibillion-Dollar Market for Your Phone’s Location Data

Jon Keegan and Alfred Ng, the Markup:

In an effort to shed light on this little-monitored industry, The Markup has identified 47 companies that harvest, sell, or trade in mobile phone location data. While hardly comprehensive, the list begins to paint a picture of the interconnected players that do everything from providing code to app developers to monetize user data to offering analytics from “1.9 billion devices” and access to datasets on hundreds of millions of people. Six companies claimed more than a billion devices in their data, and at least four claimed their data was the “most accurate” in the industry.

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Companies like Adsquare and Cuebiq told The Markup that they don’t publicly disclose what apps they get location data from to keep a competitive advantage but maintained that their process of obtaining location data was transparent and with clear consent from app users. 

“It is all extremely transparent,” said Bill Daddi, a spokesperson for Cuebiq.

Aside from Amazon, Foursquare, and Oracle, have you heard of any of the forty-seven companies identified by the Markup? Some of them likely have your phone’s location if you use third-party apps, and there are effectively no restrictions on how they collect it or who they share it with. This is what the ad tech industry calls “transparent”.