Location data providers scale back EU operations to build consent-based data sets
Factual reports that less than half of its location data partners in Europe are GDPR-compliant today.
Right now, many companies are asking what business will be like in Europe in the wake of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect May 25. For companies dealing with location data, the answer is: dramatically different.
Location is “personal data” under GDPR rules. Article 4 says:
‘Personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person.
In most use cases for location data in a post-GDPR world, consent is going to be required. And some US-based location intelligence companies have pulled out of Europe or are simply not doing business there because of the perceived burdens of GDPR compliance.
However, one such US location intelligence company, Factual, will remain in Europe. But the company has decided to dramatically scale back portions of its business and essentially rebuild them. “The amount of GDPR-compliant EU data for use in targeting and measurement won’t be at an appropriate level of scale,” explained Brian Czarny, Factual’s SVP of marketing.
Czarny added that the company has been planning for GDPR compliance for more than a year and is auditing all of its data suppliers and sources in Europe. He said that “while some progress has been made,” most publishers and data suppliers Factual works with in Europe have not sufficiently addressed consent and data transparency. He offered that “fewer than half are compliant.”
He points out that there remain a lot of questions about compliance under various scenarios. And so, out of caution, the company is going to “remove all the EU data that doesn’t have proper consent.” Accordingly, Factual’s targeting and measurement businesses will have to be rebuilt over time. “We’re going to purge all the location data that doesn’t have proper consent,” explained Czarny.
He added that failing to do so would amount to a betrayal of trust of the brands and agencies that work with the company in Europe.
Czarny did point out that Factual’s geofencing and proximity marketing solutions would continue and are not affected. A blog post from CEO Gil Elbaz explains that these solutions allow all personal data to be processed on-device and are privacy-safe.
One of the broad questions surrounding GDPR is how the rules will affect competition. Thomas Walle, CEO of Norwegian location-data aggregator Unacast predicts that post-GDPR data will ultimately be of higher quality, “because it will be opt-in.” However, he predicted that “unprepared companies will be wiped out.”