FTC Sues Data Broker Kochava For Selling User Location Data

A lawsuit has been filed to data broker Kochava by the U.S. Federal Trade Commision (FTC) for its alleged unlawful collection of geolocation user data, in violation of the FTC Act. According to the lawsuit, Kochava had been selling location data along with Mobile Advertising ID (MIAD), a special identification given to consumer’s mobile devices for the purpose of advertising. While changing the MAID is feasible, doing so necessitates proactively resetting the MAID on the user’s mobile device.

Clients of Kochava can buy a license to get premium data feeds that contain time-stamped latitude and longitude coordinates for locating mobile devices along with distinctive IDs. The information is used for a number of things, such tracking foot movement into retail establishments and for marketing. While Kochava subscribers must pay a membership fee to gain access to the data, a sample of the data is offered without charge and may be accessed with only two simple steps: creating a free AWS account and obtaining Kochava’s authorisation to view the sample. There are no limitations on how the sample data may be used. According to the lawsuit, the sample size under Kochave’s rules is a 7 day timeframe, which the FTC claims includes over 61.8 million different devices. 

The FTC alleges that Kochave has failed to effectively safeguard its customers’ data from unauthorized disclosure. They allege that customers have the ability to identify other customers and their visits to sensitive locations such as reproductive health clinics, places of worship, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and addiction recovery centers. The FTC contends that puts customers who visit these sensitive locations at risk of serious harm. 

“The company’s data allows purchasers to track people at sensitive locations that could reveal information about their personal health decisions, religious beliefs, and steps they are taking to protect themselves from abusers,” contends the FTC in a statement. “The release of this data could expose them to stigma, discrimination, physical violence, emotional distress, and other harms.”

The decision was made by the FTC to file a complaint against Kochava in a commission vote for the best interest of the public. The complaint has been filed in the District Court of Idaho and will be decided by the Court.