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Enterprises across a wide variety of industries are using location data — and the insights derived from it — to solve different business challenges. These include reaching the right audience with advertising, deciding where to open a new brick-and-mortar location, understanding where roadblocks exist in their supply chain and more.
However, despite the many benefits that insights from location data provide, to the average person, consumer data privacy remains a top concern. This often leaves businesses struggling to achieve the fine balance between using data to uncover meaningful insights while ensuring consumer privacy.
A growing number of enterprises leverage location data
Location data is a powerful component of strategic enterprise capabilities, such as customer personalization, acquisition, insights and retention. And, this information is being utilized by more companies in more ways than ever before.
A rideshare company navigating to customer pickup and drop-off locations, a web application delivering local dining options or a mobile app allowing a consumer to see news or football scores — all of these are leveraging location data. The trends and insights gleaned from this data can also help companies make critical decisions, develop strategies and overall improve their businesses.
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But, by capturing consumers’ location data, companies immediately become responsible for handling it appropriately, regardless of how it was collected or whether it is shared outside the organization. Plus (whether they are aware of it or not), companies with apps that collect location data are likely in possession of data generated at sensitive locations such as health centers, places of worship, military bases or schools. This data might be accidentally sold, used for analysis, accessed by a bad actor or exposed during a data breach — all institutional risks of handling precise location data.
This is why every company that captures or handles consumer location data in any capacity should be using privacy-enhancing technologies to ensure that their own consumer data privacy and protection efforts are not just meeting, but exceeding consumer expectations. Although fully understanding the importance of consumer privacy and accessing the types of tools needed to keep data protected can be a steep learning curve, there are ways that the location technology industry can help.
Tackling the learning curve by democratizing access to privacy-enhancing technologies
Historically, proprietary privacy-enhancing technologies have been developed by location technology companies and used internally. However, it’s my firm belief that for organizations of all types to truly progress toward the level of consumer data privacy people want and expect, privacy-enhancing technologies created by location technology companies should be made available to all companies that could benefit from these advancements.
New efforts to democratize access to privacy-enhancing technologies are helping organizations ensure that location data generated by mobile devices at sensitive locations is not used, shared or resold. These tools help add industry-leading privacy controls to a company’s own systems and work with any kind of location data, no matter how it is generated. This helps ensure that a company is meeting privacy requirements and protecting consumer data.
If more technology companies made the privacy-enhancing features used in their own systems available to other companies, organizations across industries could better protect the data stored in their systems, and in turn, consumer data privacy and protection is likely to progress and improve more quickly. A crucial starting point is democratizing access to these technologies.
The changing location data and consumer privacy landscape
While there is no shortage of discussion around what could happen should someone’s sensitive data fall into the wrong hands, there is a lack of awareness around what losing location data could do to businesses and society in general, should the world no longer have access to it. Location data can help solve business challenges, but it can also help solve challenges we as a society face, such as understanding how a virus spreads within a community or identifying evacuation routes in an area where a natural disaster has occurred so that help can reach those who need it most. However, this data still needs to be collected with privacy at the forefront.
Location data isn’t going anywhere, but privacy-protection practices will continue to evolve as companies face new customer requirements and legislation, and as new location data sources emerge like autonomous vehicles and new smart devices. Consumer privacy is now every company’s responsibility, and that’s why it’s more critical than ever for every company handling consumer data to use privacy-enhancing technologies to ensure consumer data is protected.
Jeff White is the founder and CEO of Gravy Analytics.
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