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What Happens to Our Phone’s Location Data?

The word privacy  originates from the Latin word Privatus,which denotes being “withdrawn from public life.” 

Today, privacy is a key element in developing societal diversity, giving individuals and groups certain inalienable rights like religious freedom and free speech.

With the advance of information technology, aspects of mobile telephony and the internet have made privacy concerns even more prominent. Consequently, the traditional approach to privacy has been heavily challenged.

Mobility data is one piece of sensitive information that can be collected from interconnected individuals. These data points usually reveal a person’s whereabouts and movements across time and space. With the advance of smartphones, privacy has indeed become a tricky issue.

According to Pew Research Center, many Americans feel confused and concerned, and that they lack control over their privacy.

“Roughly six-in-ten Americans believe it is not possible to go through daily life without having their data collected.” -

Consequently, many Americans also feel they have little control over the data that governments and companies collect about them. This includes their physical location, social media tracks, private conversations, and the websites they visit.

American users feel they have no control over who views their private information

Unfortunately, an individual’s data can include personal and professional information, revealing further inferences about the person in question.

It’s not easy to decipher how your movements are being tracked and sold. Furthermore, location data companies hardly reveal how they collect information from mobile apps, what exact details they gather, and how they use them.

Let’s look at what location data is, how the industry runs, and what you can do to keep companies and individuals off your privacy radar.

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Table of Contents

What Is Location Intelligence?

Location Intelligence Terminology

Who Are the Players in the Location Data Industry?

How Does Data Leave Your Phone?

How Is Location Data Used?

How Can I Prevent Companies From Accessing My Location Data?

GoDark Faraday Bags Can Boost Your Location Privacy


What Is Location Intelligence?

Location intelligence refers to the process of collecting, enhancing, and analyzing data to discover insights for location opportunities. Data is collected in confidence, which gives the collecting company a competitive advantage.

“Location intelligence is the collection and analysis of many sources of geospatial data that are transformed into strategic insights to solve a variety of business challenges.” - Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences 

Geographic information systems (GIS) produce data-driven insights that can be used in several ways.

Location intelligence supports business intelligence.

First, it helps government agencies and business analysts leverage location data from various data points, consumer behaviors, and environmental factors. They can also obtain such information from GPS and cell towers.

Secondly, the data collected is used by spatial analysts to detect trends and patterns that match specified business needs. Such details help them make informed and strategic business decisions.

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Location Intelligence Terminology

The following table presents common phrases associated with location intelligence.




Stands forSoftware Development Kits. These are tools and code that a company gives to developers, which they can then include in mobile apps.

SDKs come with enhanced drop-in features such as navigation and maps.


These are companies that collect raw location data from app developers.

Aggregators sometimes develop their own SDKs, which they share with app developers.

In turn, the aggregators collect large amounts of location data from mobile phone users. They consequently refine, combine and aggregate the data collected for business use.

IoT (Internet of Things)

IoT refers to a network of “things” (physical objects) that all have embedded software, sensors, and related technology. They exchange and collaborate multiple data sources with other objects, systems, and devices over the internet.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN is a special connection between two or more networks over the internet. They’re often used to browse region-specific websites and shield your browsing from access on a public internet connection.



Who Are the Players in the Location Data Industry?

  • Data aggregators are the leading players in the location data industry. They collect data from a range of applications and sell it en masse.

  • Analytical companies are the primary buyers of sold data from aggregators.

These two companies sell all kinds of data, including location data.

By 2030, the global location data market will have a value of $51.25 billion. This is an upward trend from 16.09 billion in 2022. 

This trend has been fueled by better smart device penetration, greater investment in IoT, and better network infrastructure. By 2027, IoT connections will have reached 25.2 billion.

Location intelligence market size, by application in USD billion


How Does Location Data Leave Your Phone?

An app installed on your phone will send a notification message asking you for permission to access your location. Once you accept the request, the location data pipeline kicks off.

The user’s consent request sometimes comes with a privacy policy that acknowledges sharing data with a third party, but most users don’t read it. According to Pew Research Center, 36% of Americans never read privacy policies before consenting.

Your mobile phone is equipped with GPS, which uses satellite signals to determine location.

Location service providers such as Google Location Services use information from Wi-Fi, device sensors, and mobile networks to collect location data from your devices.


How Is Location Data Used?

Companies obtain location data using the following strategies:

  • Collection of consumer device location data from a location-based targeting app. They then resell, share and license this information with a location data broker.
  • They offer an SDK to app developers in exchange for access to location data sources from end-users through apps.

Once data has been collected from an app and passed to the location data marketplace, data vendors can sell it several times. Data providers usually pass the data on to an aggregator, who resells it to multiple bidders.

Unbeknownst to most users, some mobile apps share their permission-protected data with others without the same permissions.

The video below reveals more about what happens to your data.

Big names like AT&T, Google, Apple, and Intel are heavy investors in location intelligence technologies. They integrate these capabilities into smartphones and use them to monitor consumer trends and behavior.

The following sectors utilize location intelligence:

  • Financial service providers such as banks use location intelligence to optimize the placement of ATMs and bank outlets. They also effectively mitigate fraud and offer promotions.

  • Insurance companies use spatial data visualization to develop policies proactively, allocate capital and minimize damage from imminent natural disasters.

  • Retailers can now assess consumer purchasing behavior trends.
    They monitor in-store actions to place certain products strategically and offer mobile marketing based on the shopper’s purchase history.

    For instance, a location intelligence firm can use raw data to understand visitor demographics or the number of people visiting a store.

  • The public sector. Police departments, for instance, have been known to use location intelligence data to improve public safety on the streets and to curb fraud.

Location intelligence data certainly gives businesses and government agencies valuable insights. This knowledge is particularly needed in services where location accuracy is a must.

However, data privacy concerns are also on the rise. Several connected devices can be used to track users and gather personal information. This leaves a broad scope for criminal activities and data misuse by hackers.

“There isn’t a lot of transparency and there is a really, really complex shadowy web of interactions between these [location data] companies that’s hard to untangle.” - Justine Sherman, cyber policy fellow at Duke Tech Policy Lab 


How Can I Prevent Companies From Accessing My Location Data?

There are a few ways to manage and monitor data leaving your phone. To prevent companies from accessing your location data, take the following precautions:

  • Turn off location services. This action tells your device not to grant GPS data to apps installed on your phone. Where possible, ensure your device identifier isn’t tracked when the app is closed.
    • In your iOS, go to Settings → Privacy → Location Services to manage access to your location data.
    • Android’s style is a bit cumbersome. You can get the full instructions on this page. Alternatively, follow the instructions in the screenshot below:


Instructions on how to set privacy instructions in android

  • Use VPNs and private browsers. Using a VPN on your phone hides your actual IP address and blocks cookies, which location companies use to trace your activities.


  • Turn off Bluetooth. Shops and stores have been known to track your location using Bluetooth. In such cases, leaving your Bluetooth on could make you a victim of mobile spyware.


  • Use a Faraday bag. This is the best way to prevent cell phone tracking. Faraday bags stop radio waves and electromagnetic pulses (EMP) from entering the bag.


GoDark Faraday Bags Can Boost Your Location Privacy

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Governments, law enforcement agencies, companies, and data thieves will use several methods to capture and distribute your location history data. Part of their scheme involves the use of free software. Once you install and use them, your analytics can be retrieved and sold to aggregators.

You can proactively prevent your personal information from these organizations and individuals using several methods. The best approach, however, is to utilize a Faraday bag.

At GoDark Bags, we have a variety of Faraday bags suitable for any device, including small phones and tablets. We even offer affordable bundles for the whole family. 

Get one today and protect your location privacy.

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