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For many of us, our mobile phone is a constant companion, with us wherever we go. It’s also constantly collecting information about us, what we do, and where we do it. And unbeknownst to many of us, once that information is collected, much of it gets sold onwards in a murky marketplace of data brokers and advertisers. Because this market for our data is not transparent, it’s almost impossible to figure out who has information about us and what they’re doing with it.

Our phones can also reveal far more about us than we might realize: important details about our lives and where we’ve been. For example, our phones might be periodically sending their exact location to tech companies. This data can pinpoint our comings and goings with startling precision. Think what this might reveal: what therapist you’re seeing, what medical treatment you’re seeking, your visits to places of worship, and even your reproductive choices. This type of tracking can cause enormous harm to consumers, including stigma, emotional distress, discrimination, or even physical violence.

That’s why the FTC has sued Kochava Inc., a location data broker that sells massive amounts of precise location data collected from tens of millions of mobile users. According to the FTC, Kochava typically charges a monthly subscription fee to access its location data — but it’s also offered free samples, requiring only minimal steps to download. The FTC says that Kochava does not remove or obscure from its data feeds the location data pointing to sensitive locations, including locations associated with medical care, places of worship, reproductive health, homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters, and addiction recovery. The result is that any customer of Kochava could track consumers’ visits to these sensitive places. In fact, in its complaint, the FTC explains it was able to identify from Kochava’s data a mobile device that visited a women’s reproductive health clinic and then trace the same device to a single-family residence, likely making it possible to identify the owner of the device.

The FTC says that the sale of this sensitive data, which can pose such an unwarranted intrusion into the most private areas of consumers’ lives, is an unfair business practice and should be stopped. The case is ongoing.

Learn more about location data and your privacy and health apps.

28 Comments


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David Stellfox
August 29, 2022

I think this is wonderful. We need more consumer protection like this. Thank you, FTC.

Thomas Carlucci
August 29, 2022

Technology is a double-edged sword, a two-sided coin: good and bad. Privacy as it used to be before cell phones no longer exists. If time travel were possible, I'd use it to go back to a time before the personal computer. I'd rather live back in the 50's - 60's - 70's then in the present time. Back then, we really did live when our country was great. Not so much anymore.

Brenda Phelps
August 29, 2022

Is this a group litigation?

Robert Lincoln
August 30, 2022

Can the compromised consumer (me) reverse this and how attack the hacker, not that I want to or will?

4lllls
August 31, 2022

You need to investigate the background checking companies such as mylife, Google, and all the others. Mylife had my driver's license on my info. Said it probably came from Google. Not Googles business to promote info used to scam and open accounts.

Cindy
September 12, 2022

In reply to by 4lllls

This scam has happend to me recently on fb market place. I recieved a comment to purchase an item I had for sale ..bit I have to believe it was a scam. I have no record of the conversation. It just disappeared?? Google??

Tom W.
August 29, 2022

Thank you FTC, for monitoring the data mining and illegal profiteering. American consumers are under constant attack, some visible and some clandestine. I applaud your vigilance and your pursuit of justice.

G Nelson
August 29, 2022

Glad to hear this.

Joanne
August 29, 2022

Glad to hear this! It REALLY is about time that this practice will hopefully be put to an end !

Judi Edwards
August 29, 2022

Go for it! I get tired of all the emails from unfamiliar organizations. Hopefully this will help on that — as well as the very important issue of tracking in general.

Bruce Baxter
August 29, 2022

WOW! Someone in our government is actually doing there job!!! Thank You.

Angel B Pacheco
August 29, 2022

The passing on of my information by companies became a nightmare for me. I bought a phone that blocks callers. So far, I have blocked about 300 telephone numbers. It will not end. I still get about three calls a day from unsolicited companies.

E Cranor
September 02, 2022

In reply to by Angel B Pacheco

I have blocked up to 16 different numbers from the same scammer from Jamaica. They just called you on a different number. I just don’t answer the calls or hit recline. I have received as many as 25 marketing calls and scamming calls in one day. When I started reporting them to the FTC then it’s moved down to four or five of them a week.

Braincramp
August 29, 2022

We most certainly live in a different world. Big brother is out in the street, in our homes, perhaps everywhere. I am in my 60s, and the speed of change and the seemingly quickening passing of days is, at times, overwhelming. I suspect that most of the younger generation (those in their 20s and 30s) don't realize this... yet.

Mike
August 29, 2022

I want to thank you for the great work! I do not carry my phone when I am going to certain appointments that are my personal business. My bank and all healthcare providers. If an emergency arises I am not concerned someone else will have a phone. The trackers can know when I go out to eat or where I shop. They bombard with ads anyway.

LINDA TALVACCHIO
August 29, 2022

It's been a long time until someone finally got to these companies, I've been very concerned about this issue, keep me updated on this lawsuit, thank you, Linda talvacchio

Patricia Watts
August 29, 2022

Thank you for this information. I will learn more about Location Data and follow your story.

J Higgins
August 31, 2022

EXCELLENT.
Please stop these disgusting people from violating our privacy Rights. It’s intrusive and puts everyone at risk of serious harm.
Thank you for catching them.

Andrea Bruno
August 30, 2022

That’s a start!!

Meg
August 30, 2022

Excellent and informative article, but nothing in here about what the consumer can do to keep sensitive information private.

Kare
August 30, 2022

Thank you FTC!!! Companies like this need to be stopped and prosecuted as criminals. Enough is enough. I thank you for all the work you do for consumers. I know your hands are tied in many cases but you do what you can, when you can and I for one am thankful.

Dennis
August 31, 2022

I find it ironic that many of the people who are so paranoid about our government tracking our personal lives care so little about situations like this as well as the data that they freely share on social media and through the fitness trackers that are so widely used.

Tony
August 31, 2022

Thank You

Jeneane
August 31, 2022

THANK YOU FTC.

Edith Cranor
September 02, 2022

If I turn my smartphone off can my privacy still be invaded or tracked?

Debra W.
September 06, 2022

This is not the only company doing this. If you're on Social Media like Facebook and you don't check your privacy information for only youself; Your name, age, address and phone numberwill appear on google. This is not a good thing. I hope the FTC can do something ti stop this invasion of privacy!

V.C. Scott
September 12, 2022

Go get ‘em! I use my cell phone as a private line. I do not welcome unsolicited calls from unknown businesses and individuals nor do I do business with random callers. I support any action to curb these invasive practices.