U.S. government sues Idaho data company it says tracks people at abortion clinics

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The Federal Trade Commission on Monday sued an Idaho-based data company for selling location data from hundreds of millions of mobile devices that can be used to track people in abortion clinics and other sensitive locations.

The FTC, the government’s leading privacy watchdog, said in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Idaho that the company, Kochava Inc., was unfairly selling sensitive data in violation of federal law.

“The FTC is suing Kochava to protect people’s privacy and stop the sale of their sensitive geolocation information,” Samuel Levine, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.

The lawsuit asks the court for a permanent injunction and any additional provisions that the court deems appropriate.

Sandpoint, Idaho-based Kochava said the suit had no merit. It said the company complies with all laws and that the FTC had a fundamentally misunderstanding of its company.

“Real progress to improve consumer data privacy will not be achieved through flamboyant press releases and frivolous lawsuits,” Brian Cox, general manager of the company’s online data marketplace known as the Kochava Collective, said in a statement.

Cox accused the FTC of spreading “misinformation” about data privacy and bypassing Congress, which is considering a federal data protection law. However, he said the company was open to settlement talks if they lead to “effective solutions.”

Kochava Inc. at Sandpoint, Idaho.Google Maps

The lawsuit appeared to be the first of its kind filed by the FTC since the US Supreme Court ruling in June quashing Roe v. Wade, the 49-year precedent that guaranteed abortion rights across the country.

“This action is part of @FTC’s work to use all of our tools to protect Americans’ privacy,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said on Twitter.

Earlier this month, the FTC said it would consider new rules to expand online privacy protections. And shortly after, Kochava sued the FTC, saying the agency had falsely threatened the company with a lawsuit over its practices.

Cox said in his statement that the company is now voluntarily implementing a new tool to block location data from sensitive locations.

He also said that Kochava gets his data from companies that say they get people’s consent.

“Kochava gets 100% of the geodata in our data marketplace from third-party data brokers who all claim the data comes from consenting consumers,” he said.

The FTC said Monday that people often do not know that their location data is being bought and shared by Kochava, and that they have no control over its sale or use.

The FTC has previously investigated mobile ad companies, including business-to-business data companies that consumers may not have heard of. A Singapore-based company agreed to pay $950,000 in civil fines in 2016.

The committee will host an online public forum on Sept. 8 to hear public feedback on the regulation of commercial data brokers. Anyone can sign up to speak, Khan said.

Some people have resisted the FTC’s stricter privacy enforcement. Republican FTC member Noah Phillips said in a statement this month that the committee should not act without further Congressional approval.


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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