Feds take strong action against the unapproved sale of personal data

A data broker accused of selling customers’ whole location records without permission is facing harsh penalties from the US government, underscoring the increased attention that privacy regulators are paying to this delicate and revealing type of personal data. As part of a settlement with Texas-based data aggregator InMarket Media, the Federal Trade Commission announced on Thursday that it was prohibiting a corporation from selling or licensing individuals’ precise geolocation data for the first time ever. According to reports, InMarket collected a sizable amount of user location data from mobile apps and informed users that the information would be used to enhance the services provided by the apps, but failed to mention that it would also be used for targeted advertising.

 

According to the FTC, InMarket broke up the location data into distinct consumer groups so that it could sell to advertisers targeting particular demographics, including “Christian church goers,” “parents of preschoolers,” high school students, and homeschooled kids, among others. However, the FTC claims that InMarket never obtained those individuals’ informed consent prior to using that data for advertising. It also required InMarket to either remove all of its previously gathered location data or take action to anonymize it, in addition to prohibiting the company from selling or licensing the information.

 

InMarket expressed its disagreement with the FTC’s charges in a statement, but it also expressed satisfaction that the resolution addressed the issues and that “we are happy to reaffirm the steps InMarket is taking to further our policies around data disclosure and use.” We have no interest in and have stated that we will not be selling customer location data as a company that offers marketing solutions, according to InMarket. Notably, the FTC makes no allegations regarding particular instances of consumer injury or problems with our privacy policy. Because of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the proliferation of state laws allowing the prosecution of abortion seekers, there has been a notable increase in public awareness of the sensitive nature of location data.

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