This company is allegedly selling data that could be used to punish abortion seekers
They’re being sued by the FTC because of it.
When Roe v. Wade was overturned and people started talking about all the ways digital data could be used to track people seeking abortion care, I was honestly not concerned. Trigger laws that impacted people’s lives immediately were going into effect, and I figured something as amorphous as data collection was the least of our problems. But recent news that digital data is, in fact, being used to track and prosecute abortion seekers proved me terrifyingly wrong. Now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is suing a data collection company to try to stop them from selling sensitive user data that could be used to target people seeking abortions, CNN reported.
The company, Kochava, is an Idaho-based company that sells the geolocation data it collects from hundreds of millions of mobile devices, BuzzFeed News reported. The FTC is suing the company because it says the data Kochava collects can be used to track both abortion seekers and abortion providers. “Where consumers seek out health care, receive counseling, or celebrate their faith is private information that shouldn’t be sold to the highest bidder,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement released Monday. “The FTC is taking Kochava to court to protect people’s privacy and halt the sale of their sensitive geolocation information.”
Brian Cox, the general manager of Kochava, told the New York Post that the company isn’t guilty of any wrongdoing and critiqued what he described as “flamboyant press releases and frivolous litigation” on the part of the FTC. “The FTC has a fundamental misunderstanding of Kochava’s data marketplace business and other data businesses. Kochava operates consistently and proactively in compliance with all rules and laws, including those specific to privacy,” Cox told The Post.
While Kochava says users have consented to the tracking the company practices, the FTC maintained in their statement that most people don’t actually understand how their data is being used and sold — and because consumers aren’t aware of the implications, Kochava’s geotracking is an unfair business practice.
Basically, the FTC — which was called on to protect abortion data in July by the White House — is saying consumers can’t consent to something they don’t understand. It seems like that should be common sense, but it also seems like sense isn’t all that common these days — not to mention human decency and respect for the privacy and autonomy of citizens.