The Truth About the SDK: It Alone Is Not Enough

By Anna Livaccari / 4 minutes

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This article was written before Cuebiq deprecated our SDK, which you can learn more about in this blog. We’ve left the following information up as it may offer offer additional insights and context.


In recent years, you’ve probably heard a lot about how SDK location data is the best. We’re here to dispel that notion; just because a company collects location data via an SDK does not necessarily mean that the data is high-quality. For example, if a company says they collect “SDK data” and does not specify what kind, this could include third-party SDK data that underwent manipulation and is not privacy-compliant. 

Sound scary? We agree. However, we’re not trying to paint SDKs in a bad light — when executed the right way, an SDK data collection methodology produces by far and away the highest quality data compared to bidstream or telcos. For an SDK to produce high-quality data, it needs to fit three specific criteria: 

1. 100% First-Party Data

Let’s start with the basics — where is the SDK data coming from? If you’re using a location partner, you want to be sure that the data is 100% first-party data. This will ensure that the data is high-quality and trustworthy, since there were no intermediaries involved — so you know that there was NO manipulation of the data. First-party data collection is also essential for privacy compliance; if you don’t know exactly where the data came from, you can’t be sure that it was collected in a privacy-compliant manner from users who provided consent.

SDK data is not necessarily first-party data. The fact that the data was collected with an SDK is not a guarantee that the person providing it to you is the one who collected it and/or that they know where it is coming from and if it was collected with the proper consent and transparency framework. In fact, a vendor that generically states they have SDK data could be using first, second, and third-party data, so it’s essential to ask potential or existing partners whether their data is 100% first-party … If you’re drafting an RFI, rather than asking “How much of your data comes from an SDK,” you should specify, “How much first-party data do you collect?”

2. High DAU and Data Persistence

Now that we have established that what matters is the fact that the data is first-party, let’s dive into how to evaluate its quality. Insights derived from first-party data are only valuable if you are able to measure the consumer journey on a daily basis and throughout the day, so that you can understand where and when consumers spend their time in the offline world (aka where they dwell). Access to a large panel providing daily insights is paramount, because the larger your user base, the more representative your data will be of the population as a whole. Looking at daily active users instead of monthly active users as an indicator of panel size is a must, because only by understanding  how your anonymous, opted-in users move in the offline world can you achieve accurate measurement. Frequent data is much more telling than sporadic data — for more on this, be sure to check out our blog on why DAUs are taking over MAUs as the new KPI for scale. 

Now for data persistence. A company needs to collect location data persistently in the background to understand when users “dwell” and when they “move.” This enables them to determine time spent at a location, or “dwell time,” which is essential to parse real from fake visits — i.e. determine whether users actually visited a location or were simply passing by.

3. Future-Proof Privacy Framework

Finally, an SDK needs to adhere to a future-proof privacy framework. In an era of increasing privacy regulations and data scandals, it’s paramount to comply with not only existing privacy regulations but also prepare for those that may likely come into effect. 

So what exactly does a future-proof privacy framework entail? A company needs to be allowing users to provide consent and control over their data, be fully transparent and accountable, and ideally pave the way for higher standards and industry best practices for privacy. Protecting user privacy is essential to not only maintain a trusting relationship with your users but also protect your brand’s reputation and equity for the future.

Read our blog “6 Truths About Location Data” to learn more about how to choose the right data to maximize your marketing efforts.

About the Author

Anna Livaccari, Growth Marketing Manager

Anna is a Boston College grad, loves being outdoors, and is a huge foodie.