My precise location is here. Well, it was here — when I wrote this.
One of my peeves is that when I’m in my home or office, or out and about, I receive real-time reminders that this application, or that plug-in, or this website, would like to detect and use my geolocation (really, a proximity). And that’s all they say. Period.
It’s most usually a short “push notice” — combined with an “accept,” “allow,” or “OK” button to indicate my consent. Most of the time I click in the affirmative, and move on. But as a consumer, I am sometimes left curious as to why. Which is why I’m frustrated.
Notices: Give Me a Push, With a Reason to Pull
My preference would be for a slightly longer notice explaining why my location would be helpful — for the digital property to induce or invite me to send my acceptance more readily.
- Is my known location being used to improve my user experience, by unlocking a functionality that is location-dependent?
- Is it to serve interest-based ads on the site or app that are location-relevant?
- Is such data shared with anyone else — and if so, why?
- Is it a combination of these?
Sometimes, the need for geolocation is a seemingly obvious request. To use an app for maps, traffic, weather or news pertinent to my location is certainly agreeable. I get it. But if there are reasons beyond user utility, a consumer ought to know what those other purposes are. And I’m not talking about a paragraph buried in Terms and Conditions or Privacy Policies — as important as those disclosures are.
Take advertising. I actually opt for data collection to enable more relevant ads. I understand why such ads exist — and use far more free services, content, and conveniences that are paid for by sponsors and advertisers, who gain access data about me, than I would otherwise pay for myself. Most Americans — and probably most global citizens — like free stuff and increasingly understand this pragmatic, useful exchange. It just doesn’t need to be behind a curtain. There should be no mystery.
This is where self-regulation (disclaimer, I work for the Digital Advertising Alliance, DAA) and privacy-by-design step in: Just tell me why you want to use it! And let me make an informed decision regarding my consent.
Location Data Has Sensitivity — So Transparency and Choice Must Be Heightened
Location data can be sensitive. Advertising may be a helpful use — but what of stalking, civil rights, employer monitoring, government surveillance? And even advertising has a “no” factor, if an algorithm inadvertently discriminates, or a “creep” concern if you feel you’re being unwittingly followed (that is, your device) around a shopping mall or grocery store. (Even if I get a coupon offer.)
So, if we are — as we should — going to be transparent with a push notice, make it short, sweet — and explain in short copy why it is helpful to consumer experience. It only takes a phrase, or a bullet point or two, to explain how and why such data collection serves such outcomes.
That was a key point that Senny Boone, SVP of accountability for the Association of National Advertisers, explained at a recent presentation, which was sponsored by Geopath, a location-based marketing trade organization; and PMD Media, a targeted outdoor and digital advertising firm.
“Business needs to grow. New growth is based on new data and new information provided by consumer interaction, behavior, and insights,” she said, noting the rising importance of place-based information. “Consumers seek more data privacy as business and technology provide less privacy protection and more data tracking — or that is the perception.”
So are we in a conflict with the consumer here? Is this loss of privacy perception accurate?
We shouldn’t be in conflict — if we believe in transparency, she said, and have privacy and a consumer focus in our brand culture.
If you adhere to codes brought forth by our trade associations — both advertising and out-of-home — which largely have synced up in line with DAA Principles, then you are in good company, Boone said.
Give Me One Reason to Stay Here and I’ll Turn Right Back Around
This is particularly true regarding geolocation data, where enhanced notice through push notifications are required — but with a rationale as part of the push. Only then can meaningful consumer consent be given. Last month, two BBB National Programs enforcement cases, successfully resolved, highlighted the need for such enhanced notice. One case involved a fitness app specifically seeking to use location data for interest-based advertising. Takeaway: Use the enhanced notice for location data consent to explain why.
Boone went on to say that mobile, social, and other digital media are increasingly connected to out-of-home (OOH) advertising. She pointed to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America code that says:
“We support responsible use of data for advertising purposes. We recognize that mobile phone and digital technology bring benefits to consumers seeking information, way-finding, entertainment, and connection to others. Increasingly, mobile-social-and-online media are connected to OOH advertising. We encourage member companies to work with suppliers that provide appropriate notice and control for the collection of precise location data from mobile phone devices used for advertising purposes. Anticipating technological changes, OAAA will continue to monitor developments in this area.”
Yes, that digital billboard you’re standing near may be wanting to interact with you. Location-based marketing is only set to grow. So make sure to undertake a data audit, know your location data partners, adhere to laws that may exist for any jurisdiction (GDPR, CCPA, etc.) — and follow industry codes for privacy ethics and best practices.
And tell me why my location is so darn useful to me as a consumer — rather than you as the marketer — when such data is sought. Not only is such explanation respectful and ethical, it serves to educate the market about why relevant ads may be that much more engaging (rather than annoying).
Perception is reality, and right now, we need to do a lot more education to get consumers — pragmatic as we are in our behavior — to get our attitudes to match.