Tile Buyer Life360 sells accurate location data to millions of users

The Life360 location tracking service sells accurate location data to tens of millions of its users, according to a new report shared by Markup.

Life360 is charged as a “Family Safety Platform” app that should allow family members to track each other using tracking software installed on smartphones, and there are both Android and iPhone apps.

The software is used by 33 million people worldwide, and apparently, Life360 sells location data and a dozen children and adults data brokers who then give the data to other third parties. Two former Life360 employees said Life360 is one of the largest sources of data in the industry, expressing concern about the way the data is used and the lack of safeguards to prevent misuse.

Employees said Life360 is not taking precautions to ensure that site history cannot be traced back to individuals. The most obvious information that identifies the user has been removed, but Life360 does not aggregate data or reduce accuracy to preserve privacy.

Life360 CEO Chris Hulls said Markup this data is an “important part of the business model” that allows basic Life360 services to be offered for free.

“We have no means to confirm or deny the accuracy” of whether Life360 is among the largest sources of data for the industry, Life360 founder and CEO Chris Hulls said in an email response to questions from The Markup. “We see data as an important part of our business model that allows us to keep core Life360 services free for most of our users, including features that have improved driver safety and saved many lives.”

An engineer who worked for X-Mode, a location data provider, said the raw location data received from Life360 was one of his “most valuable offers” because of the “abundant volume and accuracy of the data.” Life360 has sold data to companies X-Mode, Cuebiq, Arity, Safegraph and others that provide location data to other services. Life360 reveals some of the data sharing in its privacy policy, but there are companies it does not list.

Data partners are only made public when partners request transparency or there is a “special reason for it,” Hulls said. He confirmed that X-Mode buys data from Life360 and is one of “roughly a dozen data partners”. Hulls added that the company would support laws that would require public disclosure of such partners.

Some of the data providers use only aggregated location information obtained from Life360. Cuebiq, for example, users aggregated data to track the “mobility trends” of COVID-19 with the CDC. X-Mode provided Life360 data to the U.S. Department of Defense, and SafeGraph also provided it to the CDC.

Life360 makes it clear in the fine print of its privacy policy that data is sold, but people may not be aware of how the data is distributed after it is given to data brokers. “Families probably wouldn’t like the slogan ‘You can watch where your children are, as well as anyone who buys this information,'” said Duke Tech Policy Lab colleague Justin Sherman. Markup. There is also an opt-out option, but not all users may be aware of it.

Life360 is an app that parents primarily use to track their children and teens, and has raised privacy concerns about its invasiveness. Life360 said it does not share location data of users under the age of 13, but data on children over the age of 13 and adults is fair play.

Tile, a company that makes Bluetooth-based trackers that compete with Apple’s AirTags, is buying Life360 in a $ 205 million contract. Life360 says Tile will enable it to provide a “comprehensive solution” for locating pets, people and things with the purchase of Tile, a claim that is alarming given the privacy concerns expressed in today’s report.

More information on tracking Life360 users and how the data is used can be found at Markup‘s full report.

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Naveen Kumar

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