The United States is suing the broker for selling data that could track church and clinic visits

Signage can be seen at the Federal Trade Commission headquarters in Washington, DC, USA, Aug 29, 2020. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly / file Photo

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WASHINGTON, Aug.29 (Reuters) – The United States 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 health care facilities. addiction recovery “. Kochava responded by calling the FTC action “frivolous”.

The issue gained interest after a June Supreme Court ruling overturned the Roe vs Wade decision that guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion for decades. The tech industry worried that police or other entities could access search history, geolocation and other customer information that reveals pregnancy plans.

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Brian Cox, general manager of Kochava, said that “the FTC has a fundamental misunderstanding of Kochava’s data market activity and other data businesses. Kochava operates consistently and proactively in compliance with all rules and laws. “.

Kochava said he has 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 stop Kochava’s sale of sensitive geolocation data and require the company to delete the sensitive geolocation information it has collected.

“Where consumers seek health care, receive advice or celebrate their faith is private information that should not be sold to the highest bidder,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “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 on hundreds of millions of mobile devices that are packaged in personalized data. Then they sell that data to customers, including retailers who observe foot traffic.

The FTC claims that Kochava has failed to adequately protect her data from public exposure and at least until June “allowed anyone with little effort to obtain a large sample of sensitive data and use it without restrictions.”

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

The Kochava data reviewed by the FTC “included accurate, timestamped location data collected from more than 61 million unique mobile devices in the previous week.”

The FTC lawsuit said consumers could subscribe to Kochava’a’s data feed via the Amazon Web Services marketplace until June. The FTC lawsuit claimed that Kochava did so

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

In July, Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) said it will delete location data it shows when users visit an abortion clinic, following concerns that a digital trail could notify law enforcement if someone illegally interrupts an abortion clinic. pregnancy.

Earlier this month, the FTC said it is considering writing rules to better protect Americans ‘privacy and crack down on companies that collect far-reaching personal information without consumers’ full understanding.

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

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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