U.S. District Court Dismisses Location Tracking Lawsuit

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • A judge has dismissed the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit against data brokerage company Kochava.
  • The FTC argued Kochava’s data operation raised questions about how the company tracked sensitive locations, like healthcare clinics and shelters.
  • However, the judge determined that location data does not reveal personal information or provide “substantial consumer injury.”
  • The company reported it removed sensitive locations from its data marketplace in September.

A U.S. District Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against data brokerage firm Kochava on data location and tracking. The lawsuit alleges that Kochava’s geolocation data “can be used to identify people and trace their movements,” according to a press release on the FTC’s filing.

The government is apprehensive about tracking individuals at “sensitive locations,” including reproductive health clinics, places of worship, homeless and domestic violence shelters, and addiction recovery centers.

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“The privacy concerns raised by the FTC are certainly legitimate,” U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote in his opinion. The judge agreed that data disclosing where a person is over seven days could reveal private information the FTC is concerned about. However, the court also found that Kochava’s data is not “on its face, sensitive or private.”

While the consumer injury theory was deemed “plausible,” the FTC did not have a strong enough argument to show that Kochava’s practices created “significant risk” for individuals. Besides, Kochava reported removing sensitive locations from its data marketplace months ago.

The court offered the FTC 30 days to strengthen its argument and proceed with the case.

What is geolocation tracking?

Geolocation tracking allows users to track devices like cell phones across a long or short range. Some of the more popular uses for location tracking are to find lost phones and to keep tabs on keys and wallets. Some people even use GPS dog collars and trackers to keep an eye on their pets!

However, because the technology is transmitted across a range, the data is stored and can be sold or stolen.

Even more nefarious instances include people using Bluetooth trackers, like Apple AirTags, to keep tabs on people.

Kochava is not the only company facing lawsuits over its location data. Apple is named in a class action lawsuit because of their AirTags. Learn more about the risks of AirTags and how to keep them safe on our YouTube channel.

Bad actors use Bluetooth tracking devices for stalking and harassment. Some tracking services, including Apple devices, now allow users to see if they are also being tracked.

Overall, geolocation tracking can be helpful for keeping an eye on kids who are out and about, following luggage on a long journey, and ensuring you never misplace your keys again. But, the data can be misused, and the question of what it means to injure consumers through private location data is at the heart of the FTC vs. Kochava lawsuit.

Alex Kerai
Written by
Alex Kerai
Alex began writing for student newspapers and has managed to turn that into a career. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote about small businesses for Biz2Credit and Business.org. Before that, he spent time in communications for higher education institutions, created marketing materials for nonprofits, and worked for entertainment companies in Los Angeles. Today, he reports on emerging consumer trends and his work can be seen on The Penny Hoarder, Business.org, Reviews.org, Move.org, WhistleOut.com, CableTV.com, HighSpeedInternet.com, and SatelliteInternet.com. When he's not writing, Alex watches too much TV, plays guitar, reads and writes fiction, and goes on nature walks.

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