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FTC sues a data broker for selling information on abortion clinic visits

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has indicted data broker Kochava for allegedly selling sensitive geolocation data.

In its complaint filed today, the commission alleges that Kochava sells precise location data that reveals sensitive information about consumers, including access to Worship, Mental Health, Temporary Shelters (e.g. homeless, shelters for survivors of domestic violence) or other – at-risk populations and addiction recovery.”

In U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs ruling overturning decades of precedent under Roe v. Wade and allowing more than a dozen Several states criminalize abortion.

Data privacy after Dobbs

Public health advocates oppose restrictive ban , urging individuals to be cautious about their digital footprint if someone seeks an abortion in a state where it is illegal.

If anyone is concerned that their digital data could be subpoenaed and used against them, experts told the New York Times in July that in court they should not only remove menstrual cycle tracking apps, You should also be wary of your text messages and geolocation data. (The FTC settled with fertility app Flo Health in July 2021 for unauthorized sharing of users’ health information with Facebook and Google.)

While the Kochava lawsuit involves more than just Abortion, and other important ways in which personal data can be misused—the FTC seems to signal a renewed interest in protecting Americans’ reproductive health data. The bipartisan committee voted 4-1 — with Republican Commissioner Noah J. Phillips as the only dissenting vote — to sue Kochava in federal court in Idaho, where the company is headquartered. .

Kochava pre-emptively sued the FTC last week, calling its investigation “a manipulative attempt … albeit based on completely false pretenses, it looks like it’s protecting consumer privacy.”

In a statement, Kochava general manager Brian Cox said the FTC had “a fundamental misunderstanding of Kochava’s data marketplace business” and called the lawsuit “boring.” All geolocation data the company sells comes from consenting consumers, Cox wrote.

“Consumer privacy is not just an abstraction”

in a recent press conference “Some of the discussion surrounding the recent Dobbs decision just underscores what many have been saying for a long time: consumer privacy It’s not just an abstract question.”

Jolynn Dellinger, professor of privacy law and ethics at Duke University Law SchoolDobbs and subsequent new abortion restrictions “highlight the significant risks to women and providers posed by data brokers and their collection and sale of health and location data, in particular”

she noted that law enforcement has been caught buying personal data from brokers, a practice the nonprofit Center for Democracy & Technology has called an end – around the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and the Privacy of Electronic Communications. Act (ECPA) and other regulations. “

“Law enforcement actually bought the data it would have needed from a data broker. Given the criminalization of abortion, obtaining a search warrant also underscores the urgency needed to protect this data,” Dellinger said.

This article has been updated with Kochava’s statement.

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