The Federal Trade Commission sued Kochava on Monday for allegedly selling geolocation data from hundreds of millions of mobile devices that can be used to trace the movements of individuals to and from sensitive locations.
The FTC said the geolocation data provided by Kochava can reveal people’s visits to reproductive health clinics, places of worship, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and addiction recovery facilities.
The FTC’s complaint alleges that Kochava acquires and sells precise geolocation data associated with mobile advertising IDs “in a format” that allows entities to track a person’s movement to and from sensitive locations.
The FTC says the location data provided by Kochava is not anonymized, which means that combined with the mobile device’s MAID could serve to identify the mobile device’s user or owner.
But even if that doesn’t happen, the FTC says location data typically includes multiple timestamped signals for each MAID, and by plotting these signals on a map, it would be possible to infer about the mobile device owner.
“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. “The FTC is taking Kochava to court to protect people’s privacy and halt the sale of their sensitive geolocation information.”
However, this suit did not come as a surprise to Kochava.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Kochava sued the Federal Trade Commission a couple of week ago, saying the agency is wrongly threatening to sue it for marketing geolocation data that might be used to track consumer visits to sensitive locations such as abortion clinics.
Kochava said in a statement that the FTC’s then-as-yet-unfiled suit was a “manipulative attempt by the FTC to give the appearance that it is protecting consumer privacy despite being based on completely false pretenses.”
Kochava also told the FTC doesn’t understand how its business works.