When you think about the latest iOS14 release that Apple rolled out in late September, you may be wondering how the security and privacy updates that will be released early next year affect location intelligence companies like AirSage.

Evolution of Spatial Data Restrictions for User Privacy

Every year, both Google and Apple roll out new versions of their mobile Operating Systems (OS). In the past five years, almost every new OS version introduced new elements that addressed the topic of user privacy. These elements could be new privacy controls, technical restrictions, or updates to the OS Terms and Conditions for App developers. Truth be told, location data is often a major aspect addressed in these updates.

In general, apps may only access specific device resources, such as location, if needed to make the app work properly (e.g., a mapping app may use GPS while a simple flashlight app may not).

Over time, more granular control was introduced, for instance, the ability to choose between accurate location (GPS) or coarse location (100s or 1,000s of meters). While Android already offered that a couple of years ago, this is relatively new to iOS. In any case, apps that need location will still be able to use accurate location data. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that there will not be a significant decline in data with an accurate location.

Manhattanhenge on Times Square
Photo by Luca Bravo

iOS14 and Spatial Data

The reason iOS14 has been heavily debated is due to a different privacy feature: starting with this version, the Identifier for Advertisers, known as the Apple IDFA, will not be automatically available to all apps. This may have a dramatic impact on many Ad-Tech companies who rely on this ID for their business. To derive persona, to provide targeting and retargeting. To protect user privacy, as Apple says (others may see this as a subtle attack on competing tech companies such as Google or Facebook, who mainly earn money with advertising). In the context of anonymous aggregation and analytics of spatial data, GPS will remain available.

To conclude, the impact on the AirSage input data is expected to be minimal (the continued increase in both device and app usage compensates for reductions in devices sending GPS data). With the data cleansing and normalization that we apply on all ingested data, the output data will not change. Our clients appreciate our consistency in data which is rooted in our patented methodology and 20 years of experience. This allows them to directly compare trends leading into the future while also looking at the past. That is the Power of When and Where.