Adnear maps user location info by flying drones around San Fernando valley.

Adland: 

Adnear, the 'leading local intelligence company' from Singapore that gathers data so that you can geotarget your ad messages, has been experimenting data collecting with drones. Prior to this they collected data via trains, bikes and even just walking, and the data collected includes Wi-Fi and cell tower signals. The drone experiment, while I'm sure is tons of fun for them, has people in the san fernando valley worried about privacy, as these drones have been swooping over their homes for the past month.

“The idea that there are drones flying around, that’s kinda terrifying, Invasion. Invasion of privacy.”

- so said one San Fenando Valley resident in reacting to CBS locals report. Adnear wants to assure you, that privacy is a huge concern for them too:

Privacy and legal compliance are of highest importance to us. Just to keep the record straight; we only collect signals passively and do not record videos or photos. And there is no PII involved either.

Is this kosher? Drones and commercial use means that the FAA must authorize such use. CBS2’s Erica Nochlin said hat AdNear has no such authorization.

Adnear's director of marketing and research Smriti Kataria explained Venturebeat that their data collecting uses signal strength, cell tower triangulation, and other indicators to determine where the device is, and that information is then used to map the user’s travel patterns.

“Let’s say someone is walking near a coffee shop.
The coffee shop may want to offer in-app ads or discount coupons to people who often walk by but don’t enter, as well as to frequent patrons when they are elsewhere. Adnear’s client would be the coffee shop or other retailers who want to entice passersby."

So it's really the age-old SMS marketing idea, just matured to no longer use SMS, and instead pick up on the mac address that your wifi-hungry phone is constantly beaming out to the world because you like free wifi, and simply your GSM transmission. The privacy group in Sweden who made a device that beams out thousand of "ghost phones" based on a script that uses 1984 text for randomizing that we interviewed earlier, are protesting exactly this. While there's no other identifiable information other than your phones device ID, and the location info is simply used to flesh out the location traffic in the user profile, which then is sold to an advertiser who wants to reach said user. This is enough for many to consider it a privacy invasion even if their name isn't attached to it.

While everyone freaks out about that, I'd like to remind all Google (phone) users that Google maps every step you take if you haven't declined it. You can check it in your location history. Selling out to Google may very well be Adnear's exit strategy. Google already dominated the ad tech industry so much that ad banners on 55,000 websites went blank for hours when Doubleclicks ad server crashed.

Think about it: In an era of global competition, one company’s network crash broke the Internet.

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

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