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US government sues data broker Kochava over location tracking

Written by Thu 1 Sep 2022

Federal Trade Commission

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sued data broker Kochava for allegedly selling extremely precise geolocation data obtained from hundreds of millions of devices. In the lawsuit filed by the FTC, it asserts that this data has the potential to be used to accurately track the movements of people to and from sensitive locations, including places of worship, homeless and domestic violence shelters and reproductive health centres.

As a result of selling this data, the FTC say that individuals could be identified and exposed to a range of threats, such as discrimination, stalking or even physical violence. The lawsuit calls for Kochava to immediately stop the sale of this type of geolocation data and delete all of the data of this form they have already collected.

“Where consumers seek out health care, receive counseling, or celebrate their faith is private information that shouldn’t be sold to the highest bidder,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in a press release. “The FTC is taking Kochava to court to protect people’s privacy and halt the sale of their sensitive geolocation information.”

Kochava buys massive amounts of location information and then creates customised data feeds that the company say are useful for advertisers to analyse foot traffic at shops and in other areas. However, these feeds combine unique mobile device identification numbers with timestamped latitude and longitude locations, making it relatively easy to work out the identity of the phone user from their home location.

The FTC also allege that Kochava offered a data sample until at least June 2022 that offered precise, timestamped location data collected from more than 61 million unique mobile devices. Virtually anybody could have accessed this data without much difficulty and used it for whatever they wanted to.

Written by Thu 1 Sep 2022

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data geolocation government US
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