The Federal Trade Commission on Monday sued an Idaho-based data firm, accusing it of selling location data from hundreds of millions of mobile devices that could be used to track people at abortion clinics and medical facilities. other sensitive places.
The FTC, the government’s top privacy watchdog, said in the trial 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, director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, said in a statement. statement.
The lawsuit asks the court for a permanent injunction and any additional relief the court deems appropriate.
Sandpoint, based in Idaho kochava said the suit had no merit. He said the company complied with all laws and the FTC had a fundamental misunderstanding of its business.
“Real progress in improving data privacy for consumers will not be achieved by flamboyant press releases and frivolous litigation,” said Brian Cox, general manager of the company’s online data marketplace known as Kochava Collective, in a statement.
Cox accused the FTC of spreading “misinformation” about data privacy and circumventing Congress, which is weighing federal data protection law. He did, however, say the company was open to settlement talks if they resulted in “effective solutions”.
The lawsuit appears to be the first of its kind filed by the FTC since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 49-year-old precedent who guaranteed the right to abortion nationwide.
“This action is part of the @FTC’s work to use all of our tools to protect the privacy of Americans,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan. said on Twitter.
Earlier this month, the FTC said it would start considering new rules to extend privacy protections online. And shortly after, Kochava for follow-up the FTC, saying the agency wrongly threatened the company with a lawsuit over its practices.
Cox said in its statement that the company is now voluntarily implementing a new tool to block location data from sensitive locations.
He also said Kochava gets its data from companies that say they get people’s consent.
“Kochava obtains 100% of the geographic data in our data marketplace from third-party data brokers who all claim the data is from consenting consumers,” he said.
The FTC said Monday that people are often unaware that their location data is being purchased and shared by Kochava, and that they have no control over its sale or use.
The FTC has previously investigated mobile advertising companies, including business-to-business data companies that consumers may never have heard of. A Singapore based company agreed pay $950,000 in civil fines in 2016.
The committee organizes a online public forum on September 8 to hear public comments on the regulation of commercial data brokers. Anyone can register to speak, Khan said.
Some people have objected to the FTC’s enhanced privacy enforcement. FTC Republican member Noah Phillips said in a statement this month that the commission should not act without further authorization from Congress.