Smartphone Users Lack Grounds To Sue Over Alleged Location Data Sales, Kochava Says

Mobile data broker Kochava is pressing a federal judge in Idaho to throw out a class-action complaint brought by four smartphone users from California and Washington state, who claim the company wrongly sold sensitive geolocation data.

In papers filed Thursday, Kochava argues to U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho that the users can't show that they were injured by the alleged data sales, and therefore have no valid grounds to proceed in court. The company also argues that the allegations against it, even if proven true, wouldn't show that it violated any state laws.

The complaint, which was filed in February and amended earlier this month, alleges that Kochava sells people's precise geolocation data along with their mobile ad identifiers (which are typically alphanumeric strings).

That combined data “may be used to track consumers to sensitive locations, including places of religious worship, places that may be used to infer an LGBTQ+ identification, domestic abuse shelters,medical facilities, and welfare and homeless shelters,” the complaint alleges.

The allegations are similar to ones brought against Kochava last year by the Federal Trade Commission.

Kochava argues in its newest papers that the smartphone users who sued in Idaho “offer no specific facts about themselves or other class members, or their alleged injuries.”

“Plaintiffs provide no details whatsoever as to location information Kochava allegedly collected from them and Class Members or what Kochava allegedly did with the data vis à vis locations identified as 'sensitive' by the FTC,” the company adds.

Winmill also presides over the FTC's lawsuit, which is proceeding separately from the complaint filed by consumers.

Kochava argued in that case that the data it allegedly provides to third parties isn't personally identifiable, and that location data doesn't in itself reveal the reasons why someone visited a particular address.

For instance, Kochava wrote, someone who goes to a medical establishment could be “visiting another business in the same building, visiting a doctor’s office as a sales representative or vendor, a delivery person, or multitude of reasons.”

The company also said that a mobile ad identifier, even when combined with geolocation data, doesn't easily allow an “ordinary person” to identify the device's owner.

The FTC argued that even though mobile ad identifiers are pseudonymous, they can reveal people's actual identities. For instance, the FTC said in its complaint, the location of a smartphone at night could correspond to the user's street address.

Winmill heard arguments in February on Kochava's request to dismiss the FTC lawsuit. He indicated at the time that if he dismisses the FTC's claim, he will allow the agency to amend the allegations and bring them again.

Kochava additionally faces separate class-action complaints in California and Massachusetts.

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