T-Mobile is rolling out a new advertising program that takes advantage of user data. The company’s new App Insights solution has been in the beta phase for the past 12 months, and specifically looks at app data to group mobile users into cohorts that can be packaged to potential advertisers.
The cohorts are based on the apps that someone has installed on their phone, and the frequency with which they open their apps. For example, a cluster of airline-oriented apps could indicate that someone is a frequent business traveler, while someone who uses Grindr frequently could be grouped as part of the LGBTQ community. T-Mobile will not be giving advertisers access to any identifying information, but will instead be relying on those cohorts to enable brands to get ads in front of the people they are trying to reach.
T-Mobile will similarly not allow advertisers to target people based on location data, though brands can still draw on location data from other parties and then pair it with T-Mobile’s more general data to try to refine their advertising push. The company’s cohorts will draw on web browser data and the WiFi networks that someone connects to in addition to app data.
The fact that the company is not sharing personal or location data speaks to privacy concerns. As a mobile carrier, T-Mobile has access to vast amounts of intimate personal information. Giving unnamed third parties unfettered access to that data would likely generate backlash with T-Mobile customers, and potentially run afoul of current and future data protection laws.
T-Mobile is presumably hoping that limiting the amount of data available through App Insights will mitigate those concerns. Customers will be automatically registered in the program, though they are able to opt out if they wish to do so. None of the cohorts will be based on attributes like gender or cultural identity, but advertisers can try to use specific apps as a proxy to reach those groups (as in the case of Grindr).
The App Insights advertising service will only draw on data from Android phones. T-Mobile will have access to data from iPhones, but will not make that information available to advertisers. Instead, the company will simply compare the iPhone data to the Android data to see how consistent people’s usage habits are across platforms.
Individual brands will be able to look at data for their own apps, and to data from competitors. For instance, DoorDash could use App Insights to compare its performance to that of a rival like Skip the Dishes. Finally, the solution will not leverage data from business accounts and accounts that are registered to children.