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FTC sues data broker that tracks locations of 125M phones per month

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The Federal Trade Commission on Monday sued a data broker for allegedly selling location data culled from hundreds of millions of phones that can be used to track the movements of people visiting abortion clinics, domestic abuse shelters, places of worship, and other sensitive places.

In a complaint, the agency said that Idaho-based Kochava has promoted its marketplace as providing “rich geo data spanning billions of devices globally.” The data broker has also said it “delivers raw latitude/longitude data with volumes around 94B+ geo transactions per month, 125 million monthly active users, and 35 million daily active users, on average observing more than 90 daily transactions per device.”

The FTC said Kochava amassed the data by tracking the Mobile Advertising ID, or MAID, from phones and selling the data through Amazon Web Services or other outlets without first anonymizing the data. Anyone who purchases the data can then use it to track the comings and goings of many phone owners. Many of the allegations are based on the agency’s analysis of a data sample the company made available for free to promote sales of its data, which was available online with no restrictions on usage.

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