Inmobi Settles FTC Charges it Tracked Consumer’s Wherabouts without Consent

InMobi, a mobile advertising company based in Singapore, has settled charges filed by the FTC alleging that InMobi deceptively tracked the locations of hundreds of millions of consumers, including children, without their knowledge or consent to serve them geo-targeted advertising.

In its complaint, the FTC alleged that InMobi misrepresented that its advertising software would only track consumers’ locations when they opted in and in a manner consistent with their device’s privacy settings. The FTC complaint alleged that InMobi was actually tracking consumer’s locations even if the software did not ask for permission to do so and even when consumers specifically denied permission to access their location information. 

The FTC complaint alleged that the InMobi advertising network reached more than one billion devices worldwide through thousands of popular  Apps.  InMobi offered multiple forms of location-based advertising to its customers, including the ability to serve ads to consumers based on their current locations and locations they visit at certain times. The FTC alleged that InMobi tracked hundreds of millions of consumers, including children, without their consent. 

The FTC also claimed that InMobi violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting information about consumer’s locations from apps that were clearly directed at children, despite promising that it did not do so. The complaint noted that InMobi’s software tracked location in thousands of child-directed apps with hundreds of millions of users without following the steps required by COPPA to get a parent or guardian’s consent to collect and use a child’s personal information.

As a result of the settlement, InMobi is subject to a $4 million civil penalty, which is suspended to $950,000 based on the company’s financial condition.  InMobi will also be required to delete all information it collected from children and be prohibited from further COPPA violations. Moreover, InMobi will be prohibited from collecting consumers’ location information without their affirmative express consent, and will be required to honor consumers’ location privacy settings. The company will also be required to delete the location information of consumers it collected without their consent and will be prohibited from further misrepresenting its privacy practices. The settlement also requires InMobi to institute a comprehensive privacy program that will be independently audited every two years for the next 20 years.

Take-away: This matter illustrates the importance of “privacy by design” to address privacy choices, particularly as it relates to children and geolocation.   

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