The U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit Monday alleging data broker, Kochava was selling geolocation data from hundreds of millions of mobile phones.
The agency alleges this information could be used to identify visits to reproductive health clinics. The FTC suit requests that Kochava, which is based in Sandpoint, Idaho, halt its sale of geolocation data and delete the information it has collected.
“Where consumers seek out healthcare, receive counseling, or celebrate their faith is private information that shouldn’t be sold to the highest bidder,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “The FTC is taking Kochava to court to protect people’s privacy and halt the sale of their sensitive geolocation information.”
According to the complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, the company allegedly sells data feeds, which include the “precision location” information from hundreds of millions of mobile devices.
Kochava said it sources 100% of the geography data in its marketplace from third parties that have consumer consent.
Often advertisers will purchase the feeds, which are time stamped and include precise longitude and latitude coordinates, the FTC said in the suit.
“The data may be used to identify consumers who have visited an abortion clinic, and as a result, may have had or contemplated having an abortion,” the complaint reads. Further, it alleges the company’s data “may also be used to identity medical professionals who perform, or assist in the performance of, abortion services.”
Federal law limits HIPAA covered entities and business associates with how they can use and disclose personal health information, but in most cases does not protect the privacy or security of the personal health information generated from mobile devices.
Experts have called on regulators and the private sector to develop a more stringent rubric for how personal health information is communicated and collected in a post Roe vs. Wade era.
In a statement, Kochava denied wrongdoing and said it was in compliance with all laws. In a prepared statement, general manager, Brian Cox said the FTC desired a settlement and characterized its process as “flamboyant” and “frivolous."