Privacy advocates fear that consumers do not realize just how much of their private information is on their phones, reports the NY Times, and how much is made vulnerable simply by downloading and using apps, searching the mobile Web or just going about daily life with a phone.
Verizon offers Precision Market Insights to businesses like malls, stadiums and billboard owners statistics about the activities and backgrounds of cellphone users in particular locations.
In the old days — just last year — digital advertisers relied mostly on cookies, says The Times. But cookies do not attach to apps, which is why they do not work well on mobile phones and tablets. Third-party tracking cookies are commonly used as ways to compile long-term records of individuals’ browsing histories.
Drawbridge is one of several start-ups that have figured out how to follow people without cookies, and to determine that a cellphone, work computer, home computer and tablet belong to the same person, even if the devices are in no way connected.
Drawbridge, founded by a former Google data scientist, says it has matched 1.5 billion devices this way, allowing it to deliver mobile ads based on Web sites the person has visited on a computer.
Numerous mobile advertising services that most people have never heard of — like Drawbridge, Flurry, Velti and SessionM — exploit that knowledge, largely based on monitoring the apps we use and the places we go.
As of 2011, 8 of the 10 largest mobile operators (based on number of subscribers) were clients of Velti.
Other companies, like Flurry, get to know people by the apps they use, says The Times.
Flurry embeds its software in 350,000 apps on 1.2 billion devices to help app developers track things like usage. Its tracking software appears on the phone automatically when people download those apps. Flurry recently introduced a real-time ad marketplace to send advertisers an anonymized profile of users the moment they open an app.
Location data has long been seen as the key to increasing mobile advertising spending, which hovered at $4.06 billion in 2012, according to eMarketer. eMarketer expects US mobile ad spending to reach $7.19 billion in 2013 and nearly $21 billion by 2016.
Mobile is expected to reach an 11% share of total US ad spending by 2016—when it will overtake radio but still be below print (combining magazines and newspapers).
BIA/Kelsey projects local mobile ad revenues reaching $5.8 billion by 2016 (58% of the nearly $10 billion total projected mobile ad market for that year).
If there’s an upside for consumers, it’s probably relevance and the potential for discounts. Advertising could pay much of the freight in new wireless networks.
Google, Facebook, Intel, Microsoft and Yahoo are among the companies involved in The Alliance for Affordable Internet, founded by web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Foundation.
Carriers, slow to expand into new 4G bands, may be facing new competition next year in the 600 MHz band, the 2 GHz band of Dish Networks, the 2.6 GHz band by Sprint, and the new 3.5 GHz “lightly licensed” band. Carriers aren’t going to like it.