Two mobile advertising firms are locked in a dispute, with Location Sciences alleging that Blis Global sold manipulated data to marketers.
Data verification company Location Sciences claims that location tracking firm Blis manipulated data submitted to its verification platform, which was used in ad campaigns for brands including supermarket chain Aldi and Unilever, in order to enhance its own standing with advertisers.
Blis denies these allegations and has threatened legal action citing defamation after Location Sciences presented its claims of data manipulation to media agencies including Mindshare and Universal McCann.
Mark Slade, CEO of Location Sciences, which trades publicly on the London Stock Exchange, said in a letter to shareholders on Monday that it’s unacceptable for partners to alter data they pass through the company’s platform.
“The biggest disappointment to me is that an industry that is in deep need of transparency, especially given the privacy implications to consumers, is so resistant to verification and transparency,” Slade said.
Data vendors like Blis sell geographic data to marketers, who then use that information to serve people targeted ads based on their location or where they’ve been.
Location Sciences alleges Blis altered the last two digits of latitude and longitude data gathered from real-time bidding ad requests, according to a source close to the company. Blis claimed it altered data to adjust for a flaw within Location Sciences’ data-checking platform, called Verify.
Location Sciences presented these findings to GroupM’s Mindshare and Universal McCann, the agencies involved in the affected test campaigns for Unilever and Aldi, respectively.
GroupM said it doesn’t comment on ongoing legal matters, while Universal McCann declined to comment. Neither Unilever nor Aldi responded to Adweek’s request for comment.
After receiving claims it had manipulated data, Blis threatened legal action against Location Sciences, sending it a defamation letter on Nov. 13.
The London-based vendor alleged that Location Sciences made false statements and allegations that “have the potential to cause Blis reputational harm and financial loss.”
A Blis spokesperson characterized Location Sciences’ claims as “unfounded, defamatory and untrue.”
“Blis has always been committed to accuracy, transparency and verification, and we were the first to support Location Sciences’ entry into the market in 2019 when Verify was a new, untested product. We alerted them to a bug in their system in February 2020, which they have acknowledged, but as of today still have not fixed,” said the Blis spokesperson.
Location Sciences said Blis is the only user of Verify to raise any alleged flaws with the platform.
Location-targeted mobile ad spend in the U.S. totals roughly $27 billion, according to Statista. However, location data can be easily manipulated or misused, which has pushed regulators and tech platforms to clamp down on the practice. Both regulators and Big Tech are ramping up scrutiny over the way location data is collected and used—another sign of the growing pressure on ad tech’s data practices.
In July, a group of lawmakers wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission calling for an investigation into “widespread privacy violations by companies in the advertising technology” that sell private data, such as location data, of Americans without their knowledge or consent.
In early December, Apple and Google banned data broker X-Mode from collecting location data from their mobile platforms, following a report from Vice that X-Mode was gathering data from popular apps and selling it to U.S. defense contractors and the U.S. military.