The rise and rhetoric of location intelligence, or, location data and its metaphors

Authors: Peta Mitchell*, Queensland University of Technology
Topics: Cultural Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: geolocation, platform economy, platforms, location data, digital geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over the past few years, the most bombastic industry rhetoric about location data and its potential for monetization has tended to deploy one or the other of two metaphors: location as a ‘gold mine’ or location as the ‘new oil.’ While it may not constitute a gold rush, there is no doubt that a growing location-data monetization industry has developed, forming particularly around the on-selling of mobile user location data.

It is difficult to assess the size, scale, and number of players in this burgeoning but fragmented location-data monetization industry. Or, for that matter, precisely how lucrative this data is. However, in September 2018 Sudo Security Group—a company marketing its own soon-to-be-released mobile firewall—published a report detailing 12 ‘location-data monetization firms’ that routinely receive and further on-sell user location data from a range of highly popular free iOS apps in Apple’s App Store. In this paper, I focus in on the rhetoric used in the apps’ location-services justification pop-ups as well as the marketing models and public-facing rhetoric of the third-party monetization companies. While rarely employing rhetoric as hyperbolic as the ‘gold’ or ‘oil’ metaphors, these companies market their services and their vast reserves of location data in ways that de-legitimise and commoditise the often unwitting human generators of these datasets.

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