On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the data broker Kochava, based in Idaho, charging that it sold location information from hundreds of millions of mobile devices that could be used to track people’s movements away from locations like gynaecological clinics, domestic violence shelters, and houses of worship.

The organisation asserts that Kochava broke a provision of the FTC Act that forbids unfair or misleading business practises.

The FTC discovered it was possible to determine the identity of the device owner by connecting those devices to sensitive sites and tracing them back to single-family homes using data Kochava obtained on mobile devices and combining it with open-source map tools. According to the organisation, up until at least June of this year, Kochava would provide customers with reasonably easy access to a sample data collection of time-stamped location data from 61 million distinct mobile devices.

According to the FTC, Kochava advertised its services on the Amazon Web Services Marketplace with the notion that users may use their information “to link individual devices to families,” indicating that it was aware of this potential usage.

The Agency is Suing Kochava Claiming That its Location Data Identification

The Agency is Suing Kochava Claiming That its Location Data Identification
Image Source: Kiro 7

In its lawsuit, the agency claims that Kochava’s location data identification “is likely to hurt consumers through exposure to stigma, discrimination, physical violence, emotional distress, and other harms.” The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Idaho. It was further stated that Kochava might have implemented reasonable security measures to secure customer information, such as blacklisting information related to sensitive areas so that it would not be included in data sets, such as drug rehab institutions, shelters, or hospitals.

In a statement, Brian Cox, general manager of Kochava Collective, stated that the action “demonstrates the regrettable truth that the FTC has a fundamental misunderstanding of Kochava’s data marketplace company and other data enterprises. “Kochava operates consistently and purposefully in line with all laws and regulations, including those pertaining to privacy.”

Prior to the FTC’s lawsuit, the business, according to Cox, revealed a new feature that would allow users to exclude location data from some sensitive areas. He said that the business spent weeks talking to the FTC and describing how it collected data in an effort to find “productive solutions” together.

Sadly, the FTC only wanted one result: a settlement that “redefined the issue as a shifting target” and had no specific conditions or settlements. Through flashy press releases and pointless lawsuits, real progress toward bettering consumer data privacy will not be made. That the agency still works around the legal system and spreads false information about data privacy is disturbing.

Republican Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips voted against the FTC’s decision to file the action, which was approved 4-1. Christine Wilson, the other Republican on the panel, joined the Democratic majority in voting.

After the agency revealed earlier this month that it is considering new regulations to rein in commercial spying and shoddy data protection, the lawsuit strengthens its focus on privacy.