a data collection company targeted by the U.S. government

The US Consumer Protection Agency, the FTC, on Monday sued a data collection company, accused in particular of facilitating the identification of women who went to clinics practicing abortion.

The FTC accuses Kochava of selling geolocation data that tracks a person’s movements, among other things “to and from sensitive places”, explained the regulator in a press release.

Clinics, places of worship, shelters…

The FTC thus mentions clinics practicing voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion), but also places of worship, accommodation centers for the homeless or victims of domestic violence, as well as addiction treatment centers.

The data sold by Kochava, which relates to “hundreds of thousands” of cellphones, according to the agency, does not include the identities of the owners of those smartphones.

But it is possible to find them by cross-referencing, in particular with the addresses where the mobile phones are at night and the names of the owners of these accommodations.

Phone owners exposed to threats

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 expose them to threats, harassment, discrimination, job loss, and even physical abuse,” the FTC argues.

At the end of June, the Supreme Court reversed a judgment guaranteeing the protection of the right to abortion by the American Constitution. This decision made the protection of all abortion-related data a major issue.

In early July, Google announced that the location data of users visiting an abortion clinic would be automatically erased.

Since the Supreme Court decision, at least thirteen 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 which is among the states that have banned abortion. The regulator is seeking an injunction prohibiting the company from selling the data and forcing it to erase all sensitive information.

Asked by AFP, Kochava did not respond immediately.

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