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Why the Demise of Third-Party Location Data Is a Win for Market Research

Posted by MFour on Jun 26, 2018 6:00:00 AM

Data privacy blog 21Jun18 Concerns about consumers’ privacy and informed consent continue to upset the market for third-party consumer data, with clear implications for marketing and consumer insights professionals who now need to find fully transparent data sources for their research.

In the latest development that impacts data sourcing, the Associated Press reports that  “Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have pledged to stop providing information on U.S. phone owners’ locations to data brokers, stepping back from a business practice that has drawn criticism for endangering privacy.”

Instead of a putting a squeeze on researchers’ ability to track consumers’ movements with passive location data, the stepped-up privacy and consent requirements present an opportunity to improve the quality of that data, and the usefulness of the analysis and  recommendations they produce. Vardan Kikrakosyan, MFour’s Vice President of Research Solutions, explained why in a recent commentary on the impact of the General Data Privacy Regulation and its ripple effects. Here’s a key excerpt:

“MFour welcomes the new privacy and consent laws because they’re the same rules under which we’ve always operated. We’ve recognized from the start that in research, as in retail, the consumer must come first.

Data transparency and consumer consent are hardwired into our agreements  with the more than 2 million U.S. consumers who have downloaded Surveys On The Go®, the pioneering mobile app MFour launched in 2011 to bring consumer research into the Smartphone Era.

For example, rather than track consumers' movements surreptitiously, or obtain merely technical, legalistic consent via fine print in the app’s terms of use, our policy is to give our app-users regular reminders that we would like them to turn on their devices’ location features.

We make sure they understand that, in return for letting us keep track of their whereabouts, they are more likely to qualify for location-based surveys whose cash rewards are especially attractive.

The proposition is clearly stated, and the decision is theirs to make. It's what fair-dealing with consumers in the research realm demands: always making it clear that they have agency over their data and participation.

If a consumer who uses Surveys On The Go® would rather not be tracked by location, that’s fine; that person remains an app-user in good standing, and is still eligible for studies that are not location-sensitive. Personally identifiable information is always kept confidential and not shared with clients or anybody else….

Now the Digital Era is edging closer to maturity, and the Wild West mentality that has allowed some data collectors to play fast and loose with transparency and consent has nearly run its course….The realization will spread industry-wide that data quality comes first, that it doesn’t come dirt cheap, and that it doesn’t come from just anywhere, but from reliable, validated, first-party consumers who are being treated fairly and transparently, and having quality research experiences.”

As you take steps to assure that the data you’re sourcing complies with privacy and consent requirements, don’t forget to explore how you can turn what may seem like a limitation into an opportunity. To have a conversation about how a validated, doubly opted-in, first-party panel can help you meet your projects’ specific needs, just get in touch by clicking here.

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