In the 2002 movie Minority Report, there’s an iconic scene where John Anderton (played by Tom Cruise) walks through a hall of digital advertisements. With a single glance, all the ads instantly change to incorporate his name and call out things like, “John Anderton! You could use a Guinness right about now.” Even for a science fiction movie, the scene is unnerving as it shows the viewer that everything in that world knows who you are, where you are, and what you like.

With the advancement in technology nowadays, science fiction isn’t staying on the silver screen anymore. Nearly 15 years since the movie’s release, we’re seeing some Minority Report-type advertising right now in the form of targeted ads. Think about your Amazon wishlist and how ads pop up on different websites featuring items from that list. Or how you get a coupon by email right around the time you’re looking for a new winter jacket.

The general populace has known for a long time that our activities on the World Wide Web are tracked through cookies. For the most part, we’re okay with that due to the convenience it provides—like being able to save custom settings for browsing, and making it easier to log in to our favorite websites. We know you use the “remember me” option to input your Netflix password.

This information is what is willingly given. By accepting the Terms of Use (TOU) for Google Maps, for example, we tell the tech giant where we’re located in the real world and that we really like sushi. But when apps, websites, and companies are collecting information and selling it without the consumers’ consent, that’s when business ethics are called into question.

Location-based marketing is a gateway into your life

Your digital footprint is massive and marketers are the bloodhounds tracking you through the web to deliver precision ads at just the right time. It sounds like a Big Brother conspiracy, but companies, big and small, have been building digital profiles on you from the moment you logged onto a computer.

Now we could go into the whole shebang of Big Data, a buzzword that’s been floating around which simply means large chunks of digital information about groups or individuals. We could tell you about some of the Data Brokers breaking down that information and selling it to retailers. There is a lot to unpack when it comes to Big Data and how businesses of all kinds are using it, but Xclaim Mobile is a location-based marketing company so we’re going to focus on location-based marketing.

In 2015, think with Google revealed that terms like “near me,” “closest,” and “nearby” have become far more prevalent across the billions of search queries every month on Google. As detailed in the article, “more and more, people are looking for things in their vicinity—be it a gym or a mall, a plumber, or a cup of coffee. Google search interest in ‘near me’ has increased 34X since 2011 and nearly doubled since last year. The vast majority comes from mobile—80% in Q4 2014.”

Google refers to these searches as “micro-moments” and gives businesses advice on how to capitalize on that moment to drive click-thru to websites or foot traffic to stores. These micro-moments are how brick-and-mortar retail stores are reinventing themselves, something we talked about a few weeks ago. Here’s the thing: that micro-moment is arguably also your most vulnerable moment for location-based marketing.

The second you turn on your mobile GPS, you’ve told the world where you’re at. The moment you reach your destination, that data gets added to your digital profile and is potential information for other companies to buy and use to get you to visit their store next. It doesn’t just stop at Google Maps, either; every application you download onto your mobile phone is a gateway for data collection.

A 2014 article by The Guardian pointed at how even applications like Whisper (a mobile app where people can anonymously share posts) were collecting user information despite users choosing to opt out of this data collection. Mobile devices are gateways into consumers’ lives. Your GPS and radio frequency identification (RFID) on your phone provide data that advertisers are using to create personalized ads, and Data Brokers are selling that information to corporations who don’t necessarily care about the invasion of privacy. The fact of the matter is, even if you’ve read the TOU for everything, you don’t know what companies are going to do with all the data they collect. There isn’t much transparency, so it’s understandable why consumers may be wary of Big Data and location-based marketing.

Gain control over your digital life

There are a ton of methods for you to hide your digital footprint. You can set your browser to always clear your cookies every time you close out. Use a Virtual Personal Network (VPN) to hide your web-surfing activities. Keep your GPS turned off if you’re not using it and double-check all your apps to make sure they aren’t transmitting data for no reason.

The business world has a reputation for being big, cold, and unsympathetic to consumers across several industries. The lack of transparency on how information like location-based data is used often causes trust issues, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are companies like Mozilla and their pop-up shop, the Glass room, that are making strides to give users better control over the information they share.

Now, we do like to toot our own horn a bit, but let’s be serious here. Our software is designed to be 100% opt-in and non-invasive to consumers. There is no app to download and no extra hardware required in order to use Xclaim Mobile. It sounds a little too good to be true, but it’s not. We’re giving customers the choice to invite us into their lives through their most important device, their mobile phone.

Going forward in the twenty-first century, we believe that consumers will be less inclined to tolerate invasive and over-reaching marketing efforts. We believe that our business model and others that focus on transparency and noninvasiveness will be the ones that succeed in a world where these attributes are heavily valued by consumers.

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