Thanks to the widespread availability of low-cost GPS technology, many mobile devices have the ability to precisely geo-locate themselves. When users of these devices opt-in to make their location information available to applications and network services, a better, location-aware user experience is provided to them.
The location offers improved precision when targeting ads. Accurate location information, when combined with other data like user interest profiles and time of day can significantly improve the chances of ads being noticed by users, and being relevant to them. For instance, store discount coupons may be shown only to users within walking distance of a particular store.
In order to enable location targeting, the location of the device (i.e., its latitude and longitude) is included in the ad request that the device sends to a server. An ad matching service uses the location to find ads that are appropriate to the user’s location. The ad server may also forward the request to other downstream ad servers, ad networks, or ad exchanges that will use the latitude and longitude as part of their own ad matching services to find relevant ads.For location targeting to work correctly, it is important to ensure that the location of the device is captured correctly and transmitted without modification all the way to any of the matching services. The ad service that receives a request directly from a handset is known as a first-party service. First part services have a significant advantage in terms of cleanliness and freshness of request data.
Privacy-compliant, reliable location data: the key to trust
At InMobi, we run a large ad network where we receive billions of first-party ad requests, from hundreds of millions of devices every day. A large fraction of these requests come with latitude and longitude signals (which are sent upon the user’s consent to an app for collecting location information). A subset of these requests also come from devices which run our SDK. When our SDK runs as part of an application that has permissions to geo-locate the user (see image above), it obtains the latitude and longitude from the device and sends the same to our servers in a secure manner. As a result, we have a greater degree of assurance of the correctness of the location signals from a device when we get a request that is sent from our SDK. We may also receive location signals from the same device, from a different application, that comes to our servers via other channels. This enables us to verify different location signals. Our experience in dealing with location signals at scale has taught us that one needs to exercise a lot of care in interpreting and identifying where users are.
In this series of articles, we discuss some of our learnings along with a few examples that illustrate the biggest challenges with Location data and also offer insights into how important accuracy is for us at InMobi. Stay tuned for more!