FTC files lawsuit against data broker Kochava
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit in which it accuses Kochava Inc., an Idaho-based data broker, of selling geolocation data that can be used to track consumers’ movements.
The FTC announced the lawsuit today.
Kochava is a so-called data broker, or a company that collects information about consumers from multiple sources and then sells the information. Data brokers often sell the consumer information they collect to advertisers, who use the records to create targeted ad campaigns.
In the newly filed lawsuit, the FTC charges that Kochava aggregates location data from hundreds of millions of mobile devices. The FTC determined that the location data aggregated by the company can be used to track consumers’ movements to and from sensitive locations.
The FTC “sued data broker Kochava for selling geolocation data that can be used to track people at addiction recovery facilities, reproductive health clinics, places of worship, shelters, and other sensitive locations,” stated FTC Chair Lina Khan.
Before filing the lawsuit, the FTC reviewed a free location dataset that Kochava provides to potential buyers. The agency determined that the company sells access to precise location records containing timestamped latitude and longitude data. Furthermore, Kochava allegedly sells this information in a form that enables buyers to match it to specific mobile devices.
The FTC determined that consumers have no control over how Kochava uses their location information. Moreover, the agency charges that consumers are often unaware the company collects their information.
“The FTC alleges that by selling data tracking people, Kochava is enabling others to identify individuals and exposing them to threats of stigma, stalking, discrimination, job loss, and even physical violence,” the agency stated.
In its lawsuit, the FTC is asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho to halt Kochava’s sale of sensitive geolocation data. Additionally, the agency is seeking an order that would require the company to delete the sensitive geolocation information it has collected so far.
“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, the Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC is taking Kochava to court to protect people’s privacy and halt the sale of their sensitive geolocation information.”
The lawsuit comes a few weeks after the FTC launched an initiative to explore whether it should implement new privacy rules. The agency is seeking to “crack down on harmful commercial surveillance and lax data security,” it stated at the time. As part of the effort, the FTC has invited members of the public to provide feedback on what new rules should be implemented and how they should be implemented.
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