In a matter of weeks, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled another case against a company it alleges tracks consumers and sells their “precise location data” to third parties. This continues the FTC’s aggressive approach toward location-based consumer data.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Texas-based InMarket offered two apps to consumers: shopping rewards app CheckPoints, and shopping list app ListEase. According to the FTC’s press release, the FTC alleged in its complaint that when InMarket requested consent to use a consumer’s location data, it told the customer that it was only using the data “for the app’s function, such as to provide shopping reward points or to remind consumers about items on their shopping list.” The FTC alleges that InMarket “fail[ed] to inform users that the location data will also be combined with other data obtained about those users and used for targeted advertising.”
Frankly, I don’t understand why my location would need to be shared to provide me with points or remind me what’s on my list. If I received that popup, I would think twice about the transparency and accuracy of the popup. At any rate, other consumers allowed access to precise location data for this alleged purpose, and the FTC intervened on behalf of consumers to stop the practice. According to the FTC, InMarket was combining precise location data with other data to profile consumers and then categorize them as “parents of preschoolers,” “Christian church goers,” and “wealthy and not healthy.” Ouch.
The settlement prohibits InMarket from selling or licensing any precise location data and from “selling, licensing, transferring or sharing any product or service that categorizes or targets consumers based on sensitive location data.” If this settlement doesn’t tell you that the FTC has location-based services on its radar, nothing will. The clear messages from this settlement are: 1) if you are a business that is collecting and using precise location data of consumers, transparency with consumers about why you are collecting and how you are using that data is critical; 2) be mindful of the FTC’s message that “firms do not have free license to monetize data tracking people’s precise location”; and 3) read the popups and consider how your data will be used before clicking “I agree.” If the collection and use doesn’t make sense, consider not downloading it and find a better alternative.