At Sensor Tower, protecting user privacy has always been a core tenet of our organization, particularly when it comes to data collection techniques. Well before GDPR and other recent privacy legislation was introduced, Sensor Tower has been thoughtfully prioritizing the privacy of users of the panel-based apps that power our intelligence products.
Sergey Bystritskiy, Director of Data Science, noted, “The Data Science Team at Sensor Tower is excited to continue exploring and implementing privacy-enhancing technologies like Differential Privacy that will strengthen user security even further without compromising the accuracy of the aggregate estimates that we generate.”
Today, we’re excited to announce Sensor Tower’s latest innovation in safeguarding the privacy and security of consumers who use our opt-in panel apps with the introduction of Differential Privacy across several Sensor Tower products. The use of Differential Privacy further solidifies our commitment to sustainable data collection efforts in the privacy-first digital ecosystem.
What Is Differential Privacy?
As we’ve written before, Differential Privacy is a mathematical way of protecting information so that no individual in a dataset is more likely to be identified based on specific collected metrics, whether those metrics are combined with external information or not. The data is scrambled together with various types of “noise”, ensuring individual users remain anonymous while also guaranteeing the aggregate information remains accurate.
Many leading technology organizations, including Google and Apple, have deployed Differential Privacy techniques to ensure the data they collect cannot be linked back to a particular person. In fact, in the most recent U.S. Census, Differential Privacy was introduced for the first time to protect sensitive race and ethnicity data at the state and local level.
Why Does The Industry Demand Higher Compliance?
The technology industry as a whole has taken great strides to prioritize privacy as a need for increased compliance has become more apparent in recent years. From its inception, Sensor Tower has focused on aggregate statistics of a population as a whole, never as an individual. We have thus ensured that any user information is fully anonymized, and cannot be re-identified and traced back to an individual's identity.
Chief Compliance Officer Michel Bohn explained, “Protecting user privacy has always been a core value of Sensor Tower. In fact, well before GDPR and other recent privacy legislation, the Sensor Tower team thoughtfully built our panel apps with a privacy-driven approach, and continues this leadership today by working diligently on developing and incorporating privacy enhancing technologies, such as Differential Privacy, zero-knowledge proofs, and other leading-edge methodologies.”
Other companies that have implemented Differential Privacy typically do so with data they explicitly share publicly. And while this is an important effort taken to protect customer data, their methods often deal explicitly with information that’s being shared externally, and they fail to protect data directly at the source.
What Is Sensor Tower Doing That’s Different?
With one of the largest company-owned datasets in the industry, Sensor Tower is uniquely positioned to implement Differential Privacy because we maintain total ownership of our panel data. Our opt-in panel products provide us with granular insights on millions of users each month, and controlling that data flow and storage process allows us to provide a unique offering to our clients, who expect the most accurate estimates possible.
Our implementation of Differential Privacy will go above and beyond anonymization to maintain accuracy while also adding another layer of protection to the privacy-enhancing techniques we are already committed to.
Luke Klinker, Senior Developer at Sensor Tower, summarized this: “At Sensor Tower, we build apps for our users. Protecting their privacy is just as important and top-of-mind as creating a unique and engaging experience. By controlling the entire data pipeline, we ensure that our user’s data never leaves our hands. This lets us introduce industry leading practices - such as Differential Privacy - to set the standard for a truly private and safe user experience.”
In order for our accuracy to remain industry-leading, Sensor Tower has a heightened responsibility to ensure this data remains well protected. As such, customers can expect the company’s continued transparency as well as total compliance with future security and privacy regulations.
Advancements in privacy technology continue to evolve, and remaining vigilant is key when it comes to security. By deploying Differential Privacy as we collect deidentified opt-in panelist data, Sensor Tower is paving the way forward for companies in the analytics industry.
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Written by: Alex Malafeev, Founder at Sensor Tower
Date: October 2022