Ekey Technology Location Privacy

Ekey Technology, Inc. (Champaign, IL) provides the Ekey Value App for IOS and Android to give users location specific offers and community information.  The app does this by detecting where the user is with respect to community boundaries and stores. 

Since the New York Times published its December 1, 2018 article   “Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret”, users have become both aware and concerned about companies collecting and misusing their location data.  The Washington Post, in a January 29. 2018 article  “U.S. soldiers are revealing sensitive and dangerous information by jogging” notes that cell phone location data reported via apps has national security implications.

The Ekey value app needs both foreground and background location reporting ‘on’ to deliver users the best and most specific offers.  Ekey also understands that users may be hesitant to activate these permissions, both for privacy and battery impact.  IOS ‘helpfully’ provides a ‘blue bar’ across the top of the phone indicating that the app is accessing location.  User’s who find this annoying can go to permissions and set the apps permission to ‘allow location always’.   Ekey encourages users to do this to obtain the best performance from the app.

Ekey understands why, given the newspaper articles as referenced, users may be reluctant to do this.  Most abuse comes from apps collecting latitude and longitude locations in a continual manner and reporting these data to a server where they are then used or sold to a third party.  The resultant ‘breadcrumbs’ give a detailed picture of the user’s ground path.  Usually, location data is sold to ad brokers which allows them to select out location specific ads which app developers then push to the user.  Many apps are ‘monetized’ in this manner – delivering ads.

The mechanism used in the Value app is different from other apps usage of location data.  The following points are important:

  •  Ekey does not collect continual location data.  While the Value app uses GPS location data, location reports from the GPS are used internally to the app where they are used to detect specific coded objects (geocoded objects).  Once an object is detected that object’s identifier is sent to the server, not the specific location of the user.  The object identifier is then used for offer generation.
  • Object identifiers exist only for Ekey clients.  Any notional ‘tracking’ of a user would only be as accurate as the density of Ekey clients in a region.  Tracking would also require that the entity tracking could correlate the identifier with a physical location. 
  • Ekey does not sell ANY user data to third parties.  Since Ekey provides services to clients by generating ads and offers directly, monetization is through client fees.
  • Ekey privacy settings allow the user control of their data.  While the best performance is with background location on, the user may select ‘location while app is in use’.  This allows GPS location to operate only when the app is active.  Since the app is typically suspended, users will not receive the timely offers they otherwise would.  

How Ekey Detection Works

Clients generate geocoded locations – a geofenced area, a store threshold, or some other region by specifying a set of points which are stored in latitude and longitude on the server.  When the app initializes, it sends a single location report (latitude, longitude, and speed) to the server requesting a ‘map’ of objects around the user’s current location.  This map is returned to the app and stored locally.  The map is valid for a specific range from the initial user location.     Thereafter, each periodic GPS location report is used to detect whether the user is in or near a coded object.  If so, a ‘detection’ is reported to the server sending the detected object’s identifier.  If the user moves out of the map’s validity, a new request for an updated map is issued.  It is possible for a user on foot to utilize the same map for weeks at a time, thus actual locations sent to the server are very few.  This behavior precludes the continual tracking and breadcrumbs other apps report.


As anyone who has used Google Maps to navigate streets can attest, the Maps app is a significant drain on battery.  This is because GPS is on continuously.  Ekey uses detections to return ranges on nearest objects so that if the range is significant, the GPS can be turned off.   GPS is turned on periodically, acquires a location, checks, and then goes back to sleep.  This pop-up/look/sleep mechanism greatly reduces battery use.

Ekey Technology, based in Champaign Illinois, is a provider of location and preference-based marketing delivered to a mobile platform.  Ekey provides consumers with a better and more convenient shopping and dining experience and provides clients with the ability to manage their campaigns in real-time to increase their effectiveness and provide the best value for their marketing and advertising spend. 

Contact us today to learn more.   


  1 https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/10/business/location-data-privacy-apps.html

  2 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/a-map-showing-the-users-of-fitness-devices-lets-the-world-see-where-us-soldiers-are-and-what-they-are-doing/2018/01/28/86915662-0441-11e8-aa61-f3391373867e_story.html 


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