Your smartphone knows much more about you than you think, says Wall Street Journal staffer Elizabeth Dwoskin. Research found that phone apps collect data about user location approximately every three minutes, and a new startup known as Factual Inc. wants to give advertisers a way to utilize it. The company exclusively gathers location data and provides a detailed profile of phone users, which is then used to decide what advertisements to show them.
Based in Los Angeles, the company painstakingly built a database that matches 83 million specific places around the world—businesses, schools, parks, schools, hospitals and so on—with GPS coordinates as well as attributes such as whether they’re upscale or downmarket. The company aggregates location data on 600 million monthly mobile users. As coordinates stream in, it notes each device’s unique ID number and tracks its movements from place to place in its database. That allows it to create a profile: say, a man in Sacramento, Calif., who likes to hike; a hospital worker; or a wealthy woman who commutes between New York and Washington, D.C. When the same device ID launches a client’s app, the profile can help an advertising server send over an ad for hiking boots, medical devices or designer dresses.