Kochava, one of the largest and most notorious Data Brokers, is finally being sued by the FTC. The straw that broke the camels back - selling data tracked from phone geolocation. According to the lawsuit, individuals going to “sensitive locations,” including abortion clinics and domestic violence shelters, can be tracked down by anybody with sufficient funds.
Right around a year ago, we wrote an article about this very question. If you want a more detailed rundown, you can go check it out. For today’s purposes, I’ll throw down a quicker description.
In short, a Data Broker is a company that buys various kinds of information about people from various sources. They organize it, build profiles on specific people, and then sell those profiles either individually or in bulk to whoever wants it.
This has obvious problems, and they’ve resided in a legal gray area to say the least. While they’ve been allowed to thrive in the shadows, it seems like now finally they’ve taken it a little too far.
After years of inaction, the FTC has decided to step in on the issue. Privacy issues and how they intersect with legislation is in the limelight since the Supreme Court’s ruling on how the 14th Amendment extends (or doesn’t) in terms of abortion. While this may have been the catalyst, the problem is more far reaching than on that one issue.
According to their statement, the FTC is concerned about data broker’s harvesting and selling geolocation broadly. While Abortion clinics are one example they cite for sensitive information being nonconsensually exposed, they give 4 other locations.
The disclosing of an individual's presence in any of these also constitute a serious infringement on privacy. As such, it’s the FTC’s job to protect the people from the harm that comes from this.
It of course remains to be seen how effective this suite will be, not to mention the fact that it only targets one data broker.
It’s very unlikely that following this lawsuit, if it’s successful, we will no longer have to suffer the existence of such organizations. Regardless, it’s a large step in the right direction, and symbolizes a clear instance of the US Government moving against these organizations.