As shown by the investigation of the non-profit journalistic community The markup, the popular worldwide service Life360, which tracks users’ location and positions itself as a family safety platform, sells geolocation information to broker companies, which, in turn, sell information at their discretion.
In theory, Android and iOS users voluntarily install software on their own smartphones and family members’ gadgets, which allows them to constantly monitor their location. Life360 is used primarily by parents to monitor teenagers.
According to two former Life360 employees who wished to remain anonymous, 33 million people use the service worldwide. It is one of the largest sources of data for the IT industry, and its owners do not take any measures to exclude information from the data that can be associated with users. Although the most obvious information is being removed, there are still enough loopholes for information gathering.
According to the head of Life360 Chris Hulls, data is “an important part of the business model” that allows you to provide basic services to users for free. According to him, the company cannot confirm or deny that the service is one of the largest sources of data in the industry, but the service has already saved many lives. The company says it does not sell user data under the age of 13 and does not apply to teens and adults over that age.
According to one industry official, the data obtained from Life360 “was one of the most valuable propositions” due to its volume and accuracy. Life360 is known to have sold information to X-Mode, Cuebiq, Arity, Safegraph and other companies that transfer geolocation information to other services. Some partners are only disclosed when Hull says there is a “special reason” to do so.
Some of the “data providers” use anonymized, “aggregated” information that is not tied to specific users. For example, Cuebiq uses this information to monitor “mobility trends” during COVID-19 with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). X-Mode provided Life360 data to Pentagon specialists, SafeGraph also transmitted it to the CDC.
It is noteworthy that more recently Life360 acquired Tile, a company that produces Bluetooth trackers for finding people, pets and things using key fobs, for $ 205 million.