Track services

US sues broker for selling data that could track church and health clinic visits

Signage is seen at the Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, DC, U.S. August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Aug 29 (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday sued Idaho-based data broker Kochava Inc for selling geolocation data from hundreds of millions of mobile devices that could be used to track consumers.

The FTC said consumer data could be used to track people’s movements to and from sensitive locations, including “reproductive health clinics, places of worship, homeless and domestic violence shelters and detox centers. Kochava responded by calling the FTC’s action “frivolous.”

The issue sparked interest after a Supreme Court ruling in June overturned the Roe v. Wade decision that for decades guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion. The tech industry has feared that police or other entities could access clients’ search history, geolocation and other information revealing pregnancy plans.

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Brian Cox, Kochava’s Chief Executive, said “The FTC has a fundamental misunderstanding of Kochava’s data marketplace activities and other data activities. Kochava operates consistently and proactively in compliance with all rules and laws. “.

Kochava said he’s been in talks with the FTC for weeks and recently announced a feature in the works to block geolocation data from sensitive locations.

The lawsuit seeks to end Kochava’s sale of sensitive geolocation data and requires the company to delete sensitive geolocation information it has collected.

“Where consumers seek health care, receive advice or celebrate their faith, this is private information that should not be sold to the highest bidder,” said Samuel Levine, director of the Office of Privacy Protection. FTC consumers. “The FTC is taking Kochava to court to protect people’s privacy.”

The FTC said Kochava buys vast amounts of location information from other data brokers across hundreds of millions of mobile devices that is aggregated into personalized data. They then sell this data to customers, including retailers who study foot traffic.

The FTC alleges that Kochava failed to adequately protect its data from public exposure and until at least June “enabled anyone with little effort to obtain a large sample of sensitive data and ‘use without restriction’.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden praised the FTC’s action, saying it was working “to protect Americans from shady data brokers trying to sell private reproductive data for profit in post-Roe America.”

Kochava’s data reviewed by the FTC “included precise, time-stamped location data collected from more than 61 million unique mobile devices over the previous week.”

The FTC lawsuit said consumers could subscribe to the Kochava’a data feed through the Amazon Web Services marketplace until June. The FTC lawsuit said Kochava claimed he

offers “rich geographic data covering billions of devices worldwide”.

In July, Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) said it would remove location data indicating when users visit an abortion clinic, following concerns that a digital trail could tell law enforcement if someone was illegally terminating a pregnancy.

Earlier this month, the FTC said it was considering writing rules to better protect Americans’ privacy and crack down on companies that collect large-scale personal information without consumers’ knowledge.

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Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Josie Kao

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