No Single Point of Truth: the importance of multiple data sources during times of uncertainty

16th April 2020

When it comes to location-based marketing, there is no single point of truth.  The scale and variety of geo-location datasets now available in the market provide a wide range of different insights, so for media planning purposes it’s important to combine the right set of data sources to determine accurate outcomes.

Enter Covid-19 and this same statement and belief is probably more important and pertinent than ever.  Some of the major mainstream sources of geo-data collection, primarily ‘SDK-mobile data signal collectors’, are seeing upwards of 30-40% reductions in signal traffic, owing to the new limited usage of key applications, meaning the level of insight will be capped. Useful nonetheless, but more limited than ever.  This, coupled with the UK levels of lockdown, means we are not really seeing the behavioural aspects of movement patterns we had witnessed pre-Covid.

This particular issue has received a notable amount of press of late as global Governments examine and weigh up the possibility of tapping into mobile data to track people’s movements and interactions, alongside other sources, as a potential way of controlling the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.  Mobile providers and politicians have asserted that the data will be anonymised, but this approach presents a moral dilemma of public health versus moving into the more overt ‘big-brother’ territory.

In an era of ever-increasing privacy concerns it’s not something that has been asked of the public before.  Will the pandemic, and these reassurances, make people think again about sharing and handing over personal data and give explicit consent to help the Government’s efforts to stem the tide of this killer virus?

Some of world’s biggest players are looking into alternative ways of using technology to help track the spread of the Covid-19 without compromising an individual’s data privacy.  Apple and Google have in the last week announced they are building a system that could help authorities with contact-tracing by allowing users to share data through Bluetooth Low Energy transmissions.  Unlike other methods, such as using GPS data, this system would capture health data from individuals positively diagnosed for Covid-19 and use proximity technology to enable phones to exchange this information anonymously.

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out. How far will people be willing to share their data, and what will happen to these data sets once the crisis is over?  In lieu of a full handover of data, it will be important to use multiple sources of geo-insight during this period.

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