But obtaining first-party location data is getting more and more difficult thanks to new privacy protections that have been added to popular mobile operating systems.
In Android 10, the latest version of Google’s widely-used mobile OS, a new permissions setting gives users the ability to allow apps to access their location when those apps are in the foreground only. Previously, granting an app permission to access location would allow apps to obtain that data in the background as well.
Apple introduced a similar permissions setting in iOS 13. For users who have upgraded to iOS 13, the OS will alert users when an app is accessing their location in the background and present them with the option to block background access.
According to Location Sciences, a location data intelligence firm, in the six weeks after Apple introduced this new functionality, 80% of those have stopped background tracking. The company’s chief business officer, Jason Smith, put it simply, “People have decided to stop their phones’ sharing location data at a universal level.”
For companies that value location data and are finding it more difficult to obtain thanks to privacy laws and fraud, the new privacy settings in Android 10 and iOS 13 are almost certainly not welcome. But where there are challenges, there are opportunities.
Until now, companies have been able to take advantage of less granular permissions settings to obtain data in exchange for limited or questionable value. The fact that such a high percentage of iOS 13 users is opting not to share location data in the background reflects a simple fact: companies aren’t giving users a compelling enough reason to justify this access.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
There are numerous ways that background location data in apps can be used to deliver real value to users. For example, retail and commerce-related apps can use background location data to alert users to local offers and the new availability of products and services that they are interested or might be interested in. Transportation and food-related apps can use background location data to inform users about changes in their local environments, such as increased demand. And so on and so forth.
These kinds of uses of background location data are aligned to the full potential of location-based marketing, one in which companies use location data to deliver more personalized and more valuable experiences to users. But instead of trying to make this dream a reality, many companies have taken for granted their ability to obtain background location data from users without an equal exchange in value. All because it has been so easy to do so.
In many cases, once companies obtain location permissions, it is used to share their users’ data with third parties those users know nothing about, such as analytics and ad tech firms. In most cases, these third parties provide nothing of real value to users in return.
Arguably the worst thing about background location abuse is that because mobile app attrition is so high, many companies have been able to track users’ locations even when those users have stopped using their apps but haven’t yet uninstalled them.
Now that Android 10 and iOS 13 have empowered users to put an end to this, companies that still want access to background location data can take a different approach: develop apps for which a compelling need to access this data can be clearly and compellingly articulated to users, giving them a reason to grant it.
In doing so, companies can not only ensure that they continue to have access to valuable location data but also increase the likelihood that they’ll maximize the opportunities from their mobile app strategies.