The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has long expressed a concern about the potential misuse of location data. For example, in a 2022 blog post, “Location, health, and other sensitive information: FTC committed to fully enforcing the law against illegal use and sharing of highly sensitive data,” the agency termed the entire location data ecosystem “opaque” and has investigated the practices and brought enforcement actions against mobile app operators and data brokers with respect to sensitive data.
One such FTC enforcement began with an August 2022 complaint against Kochava, Inc. (“Kochava”), a digital marketing and analytics firm, seeking an order halting Kochava’s alleged acquisition and downstream sale of “massive amounts” of precise geolocation data collected from consumers’ mobile devices. In that complaint, the FTC alleged that Kochava, in its role as a data broker, collects a wealth of information about consumers and their mobile devices by, among other means, purchasing data from outside entities to sell to its own customers. Among other things, the FTC alleged that the location data provided by Kochava to its customers was not anonymized and that it was possible, using third party services, to use the geolocation data combined with other information to identify a mobile device user or owner.
In May 2023, an Idaho district court granted Kochava’s motion to dismiss the FTC’s complaint, with leave to amend. Subsequently, the FTC filed an amended complaint, and Kochava requested that the court keep the amended complaint under seal, which it did until it could rule on the merits of the parties’ arguments.
On November 3, 2023, the court granted the FTC’s motion to unseal the amended complaint, finding no “compelling reason” to keep the amended complaint under seal and rejecting Kochava’s arguments that the amended complaint’s allegations were “knowingly false” or “misleading.” (FTC v. Kochava Inc., No. 22-00377 (D. Idaho Nov. 3, 2023)). As a result, the FTC’s amended complaint has been unsealed to the public.