On August 29, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission announced a civil action against digital marketing data broker Kochava Inc. for “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 lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction to stop Kochava’s sale of geolocation data and to require the company to delete the geolocation data it has collected.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the geolocation data Kochava collects allows its clients to track consumers’ visits to reproductive health clinics, places of worship, homeless and domestic violence shelters and addiction recovery facilities, among other sensitive locations. As a data broker, Kochava purchases location data collected from mobile devices, repackages that data into data feeds that match unique mobile device identification numbers with timestamped latitude and longitude coordinates and sells the data feeds to Kochava’s clients to assist them in advertising and analyzing foot traffic at their stores. Kochava’s data feeds also can be customized to allow clients to identify specific individuals. For example, geolocation data from a mobile device at night could be connected to an individual’s home, and that data in turn could be matched to local property records to reveal the homeowner’s identity. The FTC alleged that Kochava’s sale of geolocation data puts consumers at risk and exposes them to threats of “stigma, stalking, discrimination, job loss, and even physical violence.”
Commenting on the lawsuit, the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine said, “Where consumers seek out health care, receive counseling, or celebrate their faith is private information that shouldn’t be sold to the highest bidder. The FTC is taking Kochava to court to protect people’s privacy and halt the sale of their sensitive geolocation information.”
The FTC filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. The action currently is pending.