The fall-out from the US Supreme Court's Dobbs decision in June has only just started, but it promises to bring changes to the private sector as well as the expected changes for law enforcement. One recent example: the FTC has threatened suit against an adtech company that licenses location data to its clients. Ad agencies and advertisers have access to data lists and pools for purposes of customizing, optimizing, and targeting ads: this is nothing new, and dates back at least to the sale of magazine subscriber data for direct (postal mail) marketing purposes. Today's practices are more comprehensive, more sophisticated, and more precise, however; and the FTC appears to be staking out a position against commercial use of data that can identify a person and their location, at least when it involves medical care.
Why It Matters
As noted, the purchase of data to refine an ad campaign is nothing new; and today, with most companies online, the opportunity for such data to be widely sold is greater than ever. In addition, because phones offer up so much data about is, there is more and more precise data to be bought. Companies that collect this kind of data deliberately may be forced to decide whether collecting, keeping, and selling it is worth the privacy hassle. Perhaps more importantly, any company that either collects a broad range of data "just in case," or doesn't know what it collects, or buys, should also take steps now to understand whether location data are part of its data pool and whether it needs that data. Location and related data may be important parts of marketing, profiling, ad campaign design, and overall promotional efforts; or they may become millstones for companies that decide they don't need the compliance problems (unfair trade charges, responding to subpoenas for data) that go with them.