How your delicate information could be bought after an information dealer goes bankrupt

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In 2021, an organization specializing in amassing and promoting location information known as Near bragged that it was “The World’s Largest Dataset of People’s Behavior in the Real-World,” with information representing “1.6B people across 44 countries.” Last 12 months the corporate went public with a valuation of $1 billion (through a SPAC). Seven months later it filed for chapter and has agreed to promote the corporate.

But for the “1.6B people” that Near mentioned its information represents, the vital query is: What occurs to Near’s mountain of location information? Any firm might achieve entry to it via buying the corporate’s property.

The prospect of this information, together with Near’s assortment of location information from delicate areas resembling abortion clinics, being bought off in chapter has raised alarms in Congress. Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the company to “protect consumers and investors from the outrageous conduct” of Near, citing his workplace’s investigation into the India-based firm.

Wyden’s letter additionally urged the FTC “to intervene in Near’s bankruptcy proceedings to ensure that all location and device data held by Near about Americans is promptly destroyed and is not sold off, including to another data broker.” The FTC took such an motion in 2010 to dam the usage of 11 years value of subscriber private information throughout the chapter proceedings of the XY Magazine, which was oriented to younger homosexual males. The company requested that the information be destroyed to forestall its misuse.

Wyden’s investigation was spurred by a May 2023 Wall Street Journal report that Near had licensed location information to the anti-abortion group Veritas Society so it might goal adverts to guests of Planned Parenthood clinics and try to dissuade ladies from searching for abortions. Wyden’s investigation revealed that the group’s geofencing marketing campaign targeted on 600 Planned Parenthood clinics in 48 states. The Journal additionally revealed that Near had been promoting its location information to the Department of Defense and intelligence companies.

As of publication, Near has not responded to requests for remark.

According to Near’s privateness coverage, the entire information they’ve collected could be transferred to the brand new house owners. Under the heading of “Who do you share my personal data with?” It lists “Prospective buyers of our business.”

This sort of clause is widespread in privateness insurance policies, and is a daily a part of companies being purchased and bought. Where it will get difficult is when the corporate being bought owns information containing delicate data.

This week, a brand new bankruptcy courtroom submitting confirmed that Wyden’s requests have been granted. The order positioned restrictions on the use, sale, licensing, or switch of location information collected from sensitive areas within the US and requires any firm that purchases the information to ascertain a “sensitive location data program” with detailed insurance policies for such information and guarantee ongoing monitoring and compliance, together with the creation of an inventory of delicate areas resembling reproductive well being care amenities, physician’s workplaces, homes of worship, psychological well being care suppliers, corrections amenities and shelters amongst others. The order calls for that except customers have explicitly supplied consent, the corporate should stop any assortment, use, or switch of location information.

In an announcement emailed to The Markup, Wyden wrote, “I commend the FTC for stepping in—at my request—to ensure that this data broker’s stockpile of Americans’ sensitive location data isn’t abused, again.”

Wyden known as for shielding delicate location information from information brokers, citing the brand new authorized threats to ladies for the reason that Supreme Court’s June 2022 resolution to overturn the abortion-rights ruling Roe v. Wade. Wyden wrote, “The threat posed by the sale of location data is clear, particularly to women who are seeking reproductive care.”

The chapter order additionally supplied a uncommon glimpse into how information brokers license information to 1 one other. Near’s listing of contracts included agreements with a number of location brokers, advert platforms, universities, retailers, and metropolis governments.

It is just not clear from the submitting if the agreements coated Near information being licensed, Near licensing the information from the businesses, or each.

This article was originally printed on The Markup and was republished below the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license.

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