US government targets data collection company

The Kovacha company sells data relating to “hundreds of thousands” of mobile phones, according to US authorities.

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 locations”, the regulator explained in a press release.

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

No control over the sale of data

The data sold by Kochava, which relates to “hundreds of thousands” of cell phones, 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.

Owners of the phones 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.

In early July, Google announced that the location data of users visiting an abortion clinic would be automatically erased. Since the Supreme Court ruling, at least 13 US states have made abortion illegal in most cases.

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