The US government has taken decisive action against a data broker, InMarket Media, accused of selling consumers’ precise location data without consent. This marks a significant development in privacy regulation, emphasizing authorities’ increasing scrutiny of personal information misuse. In a historic move, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has, for the first time, prohibited a company from selling or licensing individuals’ geolocation data. The settlement arises from InMarket’s alleged collection of extensive location data from mobile apps, misleading users about its intended use solely for app improvement.
The FTC contends that InMarket, instead, utilized the data for targeted advertising, categorizing consumers into specific groups like “Christian church goers,” “parents of preschoolers,” and high-school students without obtaining proper consent for advertising purposes. The settlement mandates InMarket to cease selling or licensing such data, further compelling the company to either delete all previously collected location data or take measures to anonymize it.
Increased public awareness surrounding the sensitivity of location data has been particularly notable following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to reverse Roe v. Wade. As numerous states enact laws allowing the prosecution of abortion-seekers, policy experts underscore the potential revelation of an individual’s medical choices through their location data. Notably, companies like Google are responding by implementing measures such as reducing the duration of stored location history and providing users with enhanced control over their data.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), known for its history of scrutinizing data brokers, proposed a comprehensive plan last year, aiming to restrict the collection and use of consumers’ personal information by businesses nationwide. In a recent development, the FTC has proposed a settlement with InMarket, following its approach in addressing another data broker, Outlogic (formerly X-Mode). This groundbreaking order marked the first ban on the sale of “sensitive” location data, defining sensitive locations to include medical facilities, places of worship, prisons, labor union offices, schools, childcare centers, and domestic violence shelters.
FTC Chair Lina Khan emphasized the need to protect Americans from unchecked corporate surveillance, stating, “All too often, Americans are tracked by serial data hoarders that endlessly vacuum up and use personal information.” This settlement with InMarket reflects the ongoing efforts of regulatory bodies to curb unwarranted data collection and prioritize individual privacy rights in an era of increasing digital surveillance. As the landscape of data protection evolves, the FTC remains committed to utilizing its tools to safeguard citizens from excessive corporate surveillance practices.