Your Phone’s Location Data Is Worth $12 Billion
Interconnected firms are monetizing user data and analytics from ‘1.9 billion devices’.
Wherever you go, you might make money.
But for someone else.
Some companies that shy away from the spotlight are paying top dollar for privileged access to the location history stored on your mobile phone, according to an initial report from The Next Web.
And it’s a growing industry worth an estimated $12 billion, involving aggregators, collectors, marketplaces, and location intelligence firms…an interconnected, collaborative group of companies that offer code to app developers, monetize user data, and sell analytics from “1.9 billion devices”, enabling access to datasets from hundreds of millions of people. Just six of these companies hold data from more than 1 billion devices, and at least four other firms say their data is the “most accurate” in the industry.
This is a new multi-billion dollar industry: phone location data is bought and sold
As thenextweb writes, in recent years, a huge but little-known industry has emerged that collects and sells location data for mobile devices.
Companies you’ve probably never heard of offer access to your smartphone’s location history. The $ 12 billion location data industry has a multitude of players — collectors, aggregators, marketplaces, and location intelligence firms — all bragging about the scale and accuracy of the data they collect.
The Markup has identified 47 companies that collect or trade cell phone location data. Six companies said they had more than a billion devices in their data, and at least four said their data was the “most accurate” in the industry.
For example, geolocation firm Near calls itself “the world’s largest aggregator of real-world human behavior data,” with data representing “1.6 billion people in 44 countries.” Mobilewalla offers 5 years of data that covers over 40 countries and nearly 2 billion mobile devices. X-Mode claims its data covers “25% + US adults per month.”
Notably, Oracle has a partner that openly advertises data on millions of people in the United States. This includes demographic information such as personal activities and life preferences. Meanwhile, Oracle, Epsilon and others are also explicitly promoting data exchange platforms to thousands of companies.
A huge but little-known industry has cropped up around monetizing people’s movements
The truth is, it’s hard to know all the ways in which your movements are being tracked and traded. Companies often reveal little about what apps serve as the sources of data they collect, what exactly that data consists of, and how far it travels. To piece together a picture of the ecosystem, The Markup reviewed the websites and marketing language of each of the 47 companies we identified as operating in the location data industry, as well as any information they revealed about how the data got to them.
“When the app asks for location, in the moment, because maybe you click the button to find stuff near you and you get a permission dialog, you might reasonably infer that ‘Oh, that’s to service that request to provide that functionality,’ but there’s no guarantee of that,” Egelman said. “And there’s certainly usually never a disclosure that says that the data is going to be limited to that purpose.”
Image courtesy GadgetTendency and TNW