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Popular safety app Life360 is reportedly selling the precise location data of millions of kids and their families

Dec 8, 2021, 00:37 IST
Business Insider
MoMo Productions/Getty Images
  • Life360 is selling precise location data of 33 million users, an investigation by The Markup found.
  • Former employees said Life360 sells data to dozens of brokers without certain privacy precautions.

Popular family safety app Life360 is selling the raw location data of millions of children and their families, according to an investigation by The Markup released Monday.

The company, which is in the midst of acquiring Tile in a deal worth $205 million, sells the information to dozens of data brokers who then sell the data "to virtually anyone who wants to buy it," the outlet reported.

This can include hedge funds and firms involved in targeted advertising, or in some unique cases, government agencies such as the CDC and the US Department of Defense.

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The Markup's report is based on interviews with former employees from Life360 and location data brokers, all of whom chose to remain anonymous, as they are still employed in the industry.

Life360 is a family location sharing app with safety features such as crash detection, roadside assistance, emergency support, and ID theft protection. It offers memberships ranging from $4.99 a month to $19.99 a month.

Life360 did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. The app's full privacy policy includes information on what data is shared with third-party partners, and how users can limit what is shared.

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"We see data as an important part of our business model that allows us to keep the core Life360 services free for the majority of our users, including features that have improved driver safety and saved numerous lives," Life360 CEO Chris Hulls told The Markup.

As Life360 struggles to become profitable, selling location data has become a key money-maker for the app. Last year, the company made $22 million from location data sales and partnerships, accounting for approximately 20% of its yearly revenue, The Markup found.

On top of selling raw user data, two former employees told The Markup that Life360 does not implement privacy protection measures such as fuzzing, hashing, aggregating, or reducing the precision of the data. From a technical standpoint, this makes it possible to link data back to the individual to whom it belongs.

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Hull told the outlet that Life360 follows "industry best practices" and only sells raw data to certain parties. Life360 contracts prohibit third parties from reidentifying users, he added.

"Life360 may share or disclose a child's personal information our third-party vendors, service providers and business partners as described in our full privacy policy, including, for example, with third parties as needed to analyze and detect driving behavior data, perform analytics or otherwise, support the features and functionality of our Service such as crash detection. However, we do not share or sell personal information collected from the accounts of children under 13 for marketing or advertising purposes, nor permit our third-party partners to collect and use such information for advertising purposes," Life360's Children's Privacy Policy says.

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