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There's a Multibillion-Dollar Market for Your Phone's Location Data


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Its 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.

Credit: The Markup

Companies that you likely have never heard of are hawking access to the location history on your mobile phone. An estimated $12 billion market, the location data industry has many players: collectors, aggregators, marketplaces, and location intelligence firms, all of which boast about the scale and precision of the data that they've amassed.

Location firm Near describes itself as "The World's Largest Dataset of People's Behavior in the Real-World," with data representing "1.6B people across 44 countries." Mobilewalla boasts "40+ Countries, 1.9B+ Devices, 50B Mobile Signals Daily, 5+ Years of Data." X-Mode's website claims its data covers "25%+ of the Adult U.S. population monthly."

In an effort to shed light on this little-monitored industry, The Markup has identified 47 companies that harvest, sell, or trade in mobile phone location data. While hardly comprehensive, the list begins to paint a picture of the interconnected players that do everything from providing code to app developers to monetize user data to offering analytics from "1.9 billion devices" and access to datasets on hundreds of millions of people. Six companies claimed more than a billion devices in their data, and at least four claimed their data was the "most accurate" in the industry.

From The Markup
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