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FTC Cracks Down on Mass Data Collectors: A Closer Look at Avast, X-Mode, InMarket

Three recent FTC enforcement actions reflect a heightened focus on pervasive extraction and mishandling of consumers’ sensitive personal data. Proposed Settlements with Avast X-Mode and InMarket. In mid February, the FTC announced a proposed settlement to resolve allegations that Avast, a security software company, unfairly sold consumers’ granular and re-identifiable browsing information—information that Avast amassed through its antivirus software and browser extensions after telling consumers that Avast’s software would protect their privacy, and that any disclosure of their browsing information would only be in aggregate and anonymous form. In January of this year, the FTC announced proposed settlements with two data aggregators, X-Mode Social and InMarket, to resolve a host of allegations stemming from how those companies handled consumers’ location data. Both companies, the FTC alleged, collected precise location data from consumers’ phones through the data aggregators’ own mobile apps and those of third parties (via software development kits, or “SDKs,” provided by the data aggregators). X-Mode, the FTC alleged, sold consumers’ location data to private government contractors without first telling consumers or obtaining consumers’ consent to do so. And InMarket, the agency alleged, used consumers’ location data to sort them into particularized audience segments—like “parents of preschoolers,” “Christian church goers,” “wealthy and not healthy,” etc.—that InMarket then provided to advertisers. Taken together, these matters reflect several common themes that highlight serious privacy threats imposed on consumers by business models that monetize people’s personal information.”

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