FTC sues data dealer Kochava: location data from smartphones evaluated

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday sued data broker Kochava for trading in data from millions of smartphones. The federal agency argues that data trafficking could persecute women who have an abortion. Kochava’s business model could also disclose other sensitive information, such as visiting a rehab clinic, a women’s shelter or certain places of worship. The Idaho-based company previously filed a lawsuit against the FTC to ward off privacy regulations the dispute over privacy in the United States. U.S. President Joe Biden’s agency chief, Lina Khan


Hundreds Millions of smartphones evaluated

Kochava is one of numerous companies that compile and market geodata from smartphone users . This data usually comes from apps that collect data in the background and forward it to various data platforms – for advertising purposes, for example. The data can also be used by government agencies, for example to record the utilization of traffic routes. In the past, however, US law enforcement agencies have repeatedly used information from such companies to find suspected criminals.

The company is watching wrongly accused. “Kochava operates consistently and proactively in compliance with all rules and laws, including those affecting privacy,” said Brian Cox, managing director of the data broker. The company bills itself as the world’s largest independent mobile data marketplace, enabling marketers to shop for mobile audiences. The company recently launched a program to allow abortion clinics, for example, to delete their sites from Kochava’s inventory.

But such measures are not enough for the FTC. According to the authority, the provider collects sensitive data from hundreds of millions of smartphones. Kochava is also active in Europe.


The FTC announced this month that it intends to draft new rules to address what they see as harmful commercial surveillance and lax data security by tech companies. “Where consumers seek medical care, counseling, or celebrating their faith is private information that should not be sold to the highest bidder,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Division.

The data brokerage industry, which collects, sells or trades cell phone location data, has come under increased scrutiny from Congress and regulators following the Supreme Court decision. Lawmakers have asked executives from large tech companies, as well as smaller data brokers, about how they handle cell phone location data and what steps they have taken to protect the privacy rights of individuals seeking abortion information.

Criticism of online advertising

The online advertising industry must also adjust to stricter supervision. Sephora, one of the world’s largest cosmetics retailers, settled a lawsuit in California last week for $1.2 million. The company is said to have sold customer data without proper notification and thus violated California’s data protection law.

The discussions about a federal data protection law in the USA are now taking on more and more concrete features. Democratic members of parliament in particular want to commission the secret services with an assessment of the extent to which advertising tracking endangers national security. Since many digital companies are aligning their business model with the USA, restrictions would probably have an impact on the global data business.

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