The US Consumer Protection Agency (FTC) sued a data collection company on Monday. She is specifically accused of facilitating the identification of women attending abortion clinics
The FTC accuses the affected company Kochava of selling geolocation data that makes it possible to track a person’s movements “to and from sensitive locations,” among other things, the regulator said in a press release.
This is what the FTC calls clinics that practice voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion), but also places of worship, reception centers for the homeless or victims of domestic violence, and addiction treatment centers.
“Hundreds of thousands” of smartphones
The data sold by Kochava, which the FTC says pertains to “hundreds of thousands” of cell phones, does not include the identities of the owners of those smartphones. However, it is possible to find them by cross-referencing, in particular with the addresses where the cell phones are located at night and the names of the owners of these accommodations.
Phone owners are often unaware that their geolocation data has been purchased and shared by Kochava and have no control over its sale or use. By selling this data, Kochava allows others to “identify individuals and subject them to threats, harassment, discrimination, job loss and even physical abuse,” argues the FTC.
Data protection in the USA not standardized
“In the United States, data protection regulations are not as strict or as standardized as in Europe, with European data protection regulations. There is no ownership of this data. explains Juliette Ancelle, associate lawyer specializing in technology, in the program forum on Tuesday.
With so many companies in the United States making data resale their “business model,” consumers should be able to make an informed choice when opting out of sharing their data, such as with B. the geolocation, agree.
“But in order to accept, you have to know what is being done with it, how it can be used, what data we are sharing,” notes the specialist. However, we are often not very careful when accepting terms of service over which we have little control. “We’re finally coming to understand a form of renunciation,” describes Juliette Ancelle. (…) Like the efforts of European legislation, it should therefore make it easier for users to understand and not accept everything as standard, argues the lawyer. “This is where the shoe pinches in the United States, and that justifies it being the administration protecting consumers that’s stepping in today.”
>> Juliette Ancelle’s interview in the forum:
requested data erasure
The Supreme Court’s decision in late June to overturn abortion rights made the protection of all data related to abortion a major issue.
In early July, Google announced that it would automatically delete location data from users who visit an abortion clinic. Since the Supreme Court ruling, at least 13 US states have made abortion illegal in most cases.
The FTC’s subpoena was filed in federal court in Idaho, where Kochava is headquartered and is one of the states that has banned abortion. The regulator is seeking an injunction barring the company from selling the data and forcing it to erase all sensitive information. When asked by AFP, Kochava did not immediately respond.
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