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Location intelligence company Gravy Analytics is introducing what it’s calling “location data forensics.” Its purpose is to filter out unreliable, inaccurate or fraudulent location data from the bidstream.

Location data often unreliable. Mobile ad exchange bid requests including location are often significantly more valuable than those without. That results in a lot of questionable location data being passed in the system. A publisher or app may pass questionable or fake location just to satisfy the bid request. According to Gravy CEO Jeff White, between 40 and 80 percent of bidstream location data it sees is either “fraudulent or suspicious.”

White added that the scale of the problem is largely unrecognized by advertisers and even the exchanges themselves. Location data is used for a widening array of marketing and analytics purposes: audience segmentation, offline attribution, proximity marketing, internal benchmarking and competitive intelligence, among still others.

Location accuracy matters more for some scenarios than others. For example, store-visitation attribution requires more precision than proximity marketing. And if you’re buying an audience of “auto intenders,” for example, you want the people who’ve actually been on car dealer lots in the past 30 days, and so on. The reliability of the data is critical — garbage in, garbage out.

Suppressing ‘anomalous’ location signals. There are lots of sources of location data that make their way into the bidstream: cell-tower triangulation, GPS, Wifi signals and other sources. Then there’s fraud and spoofed location. Gravy’s White says that the company is providing full transparency to its partners surrounding every location-data signal and source, which can be audited if desired. Its machine learning algorithms will separate valid signals from dubious ones. (Nearly all of Gravy’s competitors also say their proprietary technology ensures accurate location data.)

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White says the system will help the company’s partners, including DSPs and DMPs, “suppress anomalous location signals.” He added that Gravy will start blacklisting publishers, apps, locations and devices that are found to be bad or inaccurate. These will be filtered automatically.

Why you should care. Location data is an increasingly critical (and controversial) component of mobile and programmatic advertising. Inaccuracy and fraud have plagued location in programmatic inventory since the beginning. Multiple companies have been seeking to educate marketers about the problem. With its new location data forensics, Gravy is trying to build more confidence in its and its programmatic partners’ location data sets.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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