Data Broker Kochava Tentatively Settles Location Privacy Suit In Massachusetts

Mobile data broker Kochava has tentatively agreed to settle a class-action complaint brought by a Massachusetts resident who claimed the company wrongly sold smartphone users' precise location data, according to papers filed in court this week.

Details of the “resolution in principle” are still being finalized, the parties said in a status report submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani in Boston. The company and Maattala told Talwani they will provide a further update by July 10.

If completed, the deal will bring an end to a lawsuit brought in 2022 by Julie Maattala, who alleged that Kochava obtains and sells precise location data that originates with mobile apps, in violation of a Massachusetts consumer protection law that prohibits unfair or deceptive business practices.

Maattala sued several months after the Federal Trade Commission charged Kochava with acting unfairly by allegedly selling the kind of precise geolocation data that could expose sensitive information, such as whether people visited doctors' offices or religious institutions.



Among other allegations, the FTC alleged that Kochava sells precise geolocation data as well as mobile advertising IDs -- unique, 32-character identifiers that persist, unless consumers proactively reset them.

Kochava, based in Sandpoint, Idaho, has argued that data it sells isn't personally identifiable, and that the FTC's allegations -- even if proven true -- wouldn't amount to unfair conduct.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill in Idaho allowed the FTC to proceed with its complaint. Winmill essentially said at the time that the allegations against the company, if proven true, could support the claim that it engaged in activity that could cause “substantial injury” to consumers, and wasn't reasonably avoidable or outweighed by benefits.

“Kochava allegedly provides its customers with vast amounts of essentially non-anonymized information about millions of mobile device users’ past physical locations, personal characteristics (including age, ethnicity, and gender), religious and political affiliations, marital and parental statuses, economic statuses, and more,” Winmill wrote in February.

Kochava founder and CEO Charles Manning said at the time that the company was “confident” it would prevail on the merits. He also noted that Kochava's “privacy block” -- a two-year-old feature that removes known health services locations from the company's marketplace -- had blocked over 2.1 million locations as of February.

Since that ruling, Kochava and the FTC have indicated they are open to settling the case. In May, they filed a joint motion asking Winmill for a five-week extension of a deadline to file pre-trial paperwork, writing that the additional time would “facilitate settlement talks.”

On Monday, they asked for an additional four-week extension, again writing that the extra time would facilitate settlement discussions.

Kochava is also facing class-action complaints by consumers in California and Idaho.

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