FTC Files ‘Urgently Needed’ Lawsuit Against Data Broker, Citing Threats to Abortion Patients

know about FTC Files ‘Urgently Needed’ Lawsuit Against Data Broker, Citing Threats to Abortion Patients

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Privacy and reproductive rights advocates welcomed the Biden administration on Monday lawsuit v. Kochava Inc., which argues that the Idaho-based data broker’s practices endanger post-abortion patients.Roe vs. Wade it was.

“It is a critical step to crack down on data brokers who sell sensitive location data, including in healthcare clinics.”

Since the US Supreme Court decision in late June Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision reversed RoeWhile anti-choice forces have intensified attacks on reproductive freedom, concerns have grown about how data from devices like smartphones can be used to attack patients and healthcare providers.

In a statement about the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lawsuit, Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, indicated the growing threat posed by those who seek to ban and criminalize abortions, and punish those who practice them.

“Especially in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision. dobbs decision, today’s FTC action is urgently needed to protect patients and consumers from superpowered vigilantes, extremists, and overzealous data surveillance prosecutors,” Weissman said.

“This lawsuit highlights the very real threats that data surveillance poses to people’s safety, physical integrity, and access to health care,” he continued. “This is why it’s so important that the FTC pursue a broad rule to protect consumer privacy and restrict data surveillance, and why Congress should pass legislation to ensure strong privacy protections for all Americans.”

United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also celebrated the agency and administration’s “big move” “to protect Americans’ privacy,” tweeting that “with abortion rights under attack from the Supreme Court and Republican states, it’s a critical step in cracking down on data brokers who sell sensitive location data, including at health clinics and places of worship.”

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Some, like UltraViolet’s Shaunna Thomas, thanked FTC Chair Lina Khan, an appointee of President Joe Biden, for her leadership.

Only Noah Joshua Phillips, one of two Republican commissioners, voted against filing the complaint, which accuses Kochava of violating federal law “relating to the acquisition of precise geolocation data from consumers and the sale of the data in a format that allows entities to track consumer data.” movements to and from sensitive places.

That data, collected from mobile devices, can connect people not only to their homes, but also to “locations associated with health care, reproductive health, religious worship, mental health, temporary shelters such as homeless shelters, survivors of domestic violence or other populations at risk and recovering from addictions,” the complaint explains.

The filing notes that, in addition to its paid services, until June, Kochava had a sample of data on Amazon Web Services (AWS) that was relatively easy to access for free. One day of that data set examined by the FTC was for almost 62 million unique mobile numbers.

In the data sample, “it is possible to identify a mobile device that visited a women’s reproductive health clinic and trace that mobile device back to a single-family residence,” the complaint states. “The data set also reveals that the same mobile device was in a particular location at least three nights in the same week, suggesting the routine of the mobile device user. The data can also be used to identify medical professionals who perform or assist in the performance of abortion services.

After detailing other examples, the document states that “identifying consumers’ sensitive and private characteristics from location data sold and offered by Kochava harms or is likely to harm consumers through exposure to stigma.” , discrimination, physical violence, emotional distress, and other harm. ” and “these injuries are exacerbated by the fact that, as described above, Kochava lacks meaningful controls over who accesses its location data feed,” including data sampling.

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The filing also states that “the collection and use of your location data is opaque to consumers, who generally do not know who has collected their location data and how it is used,” and Kochava “could implement security measures to delete data associated with confidential information”. locations…at reasonable cost and expenditure of resources”.

Echoing the complaint, Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Office of Consumer Protection, said that “where consumers seek medical care, receive advice or celebrate their faith is private information that should not be sold to the highest bidder.”

“The FTC is taking Kochava to court,” Levine added, “to protect people’s privacy and stop the sale of their sensitive geolocation information.”

Brian Cox, General Manager of Kochava reclaimed The lawsuit “displays the unfortunate reality that the FTC has a fundamental misunderstanding of Kochava’s data marketplace business and other data businesses,” and that the company “operates consistently and proactively in compliance with all applicable rules and laws, including those specific to privacy.

Cox also noted Kochava’s recently announced ability to block location data from sensitive locations and recent engagement with the FTC prior to the filing. He added that “real progress in improving consumer data privacy will not be made through extravagant press releases and frivolous litigation” and “it is disappointing that the agency continues to circumvent the legislative process and perpetuate privacy misinformation.” of the data”.

Meanwhile, experts like Tulane University law professor Ann Lipton highlighted that “the lawsuit is really about general location sharing, which could be used for all sorts of purposes, including stalking and theft, but the FTC highlights abortion as a sensitive use.”

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In the words of investigative journalist Jon Keegan, “This is a huge opportunity for the location data industry.”

Keegan also noted that the lawsuit follows a public caveat July that the FTC “is committed to using the full extent of its legal authorities to protect consumer privacy” and “will vigorously enforce the law if we discover illegal conduct that exploits the location, health, or other sensitive data of consumers.” Americans”.