Family Location Tracking App Life360 Accused of Selling User Data to "Virtually Anyone"

The location tracking app Life360 reportedly sells precise location data of millions of its users to brokers, who then sell it to "virtually anyone who wants to buy it".

Credit: Life360

Two former employees told The Markup that the San Francisco-based firm is one of the largest sources of data in the industry. They said that while the data is anonymised before it’s sold, there are still ways in which it can be traced back to individuals. The employees noted that Life360 doesn’t make any effort in reducing the precision of location data, expressing concern about how this sort of practice could affect user privacy.


Life360 is said to be used by over 33 million people worldwide as a social network where families can message and share their locations with each other. Parents could, for example, use the app to keep an eye on their kids’ whereabouts using features like location histories, favourite routes and personalised alerts.


This, of course, also means that the data of children and teens are also being collected. The firm, however, stressed that it does not share the location data of users under 13 years old. Users above that age though are fair game.

Credit: Life360

Life360 CEO Chris Hulls explains that data is an important part of the app’s business model and is one of the primary reasons why it’s able to offer a free plan. "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," he told The Markup.


To be fair, the app does disclose in its privacy policy that user data is sold. It also includes an opt-out feature for those who aren’t comfortable about being tracked. Still, there remains an ethical concern in sharing what is supposed to be private data with third parties. "Families would probably not like the slogan, 'You can watch where your kids are, and so can anyone who buys this information,'" said Justin Sherman, Duke Tech Policy Lab fellow.


According to The Markup, data brokers that work with Life360 include X-Mode, Cuebiq, Arity and Safegraph, among others. A former employee of X-Mode said that Life360’s data was among the most valuable offerings they received due to its sheer volume and precision.


The report adds that there are likely more companies that are benefiting from Life360’s data that we might not know about yet. For instance, Cubeiq, another one of Life360’s data brokers, provides raw location data to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Hulls declined to disclose a full list of Life360’s data customers, citing confidentiality clauses. The executive added that data partners are only disclosed when there’s a request for transparency or there's "a particular reason to do so".

Credit: Life360

Last year, the family tracking app reportedly recorded US$16 million from selling location data, which amounts to about 20% of the firm’s total revenue that year. It also made an additional US$6 million from its partnership with data broker Arity.


Life360 is also in process of acquiring Tile, the tracking device manufacturer competing with Apple’s AirTags, for US$205 million. Earlier this year, the firm also bought out GPS maker Jiobit for US$37 million.


It’s a little concerning that an app that many are using to monitor their kids’ location and safety sells its users’ private data. The good news is you can still choose to disable the sale of your data, as mentioned earlier.


You’ll just have to go to your app’s "Settings", then tap "Privacy & Security". From there, tap on "Do Not Sell My Personal Information" and toggle "Personal Information Sales" off.

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