Data sold by Life360, an app that helps people share their location with family members, is being sold by data dealers to whoever is willing to pay for it, The Markup
has found. At the center of the report are two former employees of Life360 and two people who in the past have worked for two of its customers - Cuebiq and X-Mode.
have revealed that the company doesn't take the steps needed to ensure the information is not traced back to people. Some of the customers are sold raw location data and the company says it trusts its customers to obfuscate that information.
Apparently, Life360 is the go-to source for location data for most entities, a claim that founder and CEO Chris Hulls neither confirms nor denies. He says that data is an important part of the company and allows them to keep core services free, including features that have "improved driver safety and saved numerous lives." Last year, location data sales made up 20 percent of the revenue.
The data is seemingly being used by hedge funds or firms that do targeted advertising and by government organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Defense.
X-Mode has been found in the past to sell location data from Muslim prayers apps to U.S. government contractors. Cuebiq sold location data to news organizations like The New York Times and NBC News during the beginning of the pandemic as they were eager to learn about the new movement patterns of the public during the early lockdown period.
Life360, which began selling data in 2016, instituted a policy barring the sale of data for law enforcement purposes in 2020 and this also applies to customers who get data from it. Whether they are complying with this is not known.
Although Life360 made a loss of $16.3 million in 2020, it is expanding its business to include products for data breach alerts, credit monitoring, and identity-theft protection.
In 2019, it bought family screen-time monitoring app ZenScreen and in April, it acquired Jiobit which makes wearable location devices for kids, pets, and seniors. Most recently, it revealed plans to buy Tile
, a company that makes Bluetooth trackers to help consumers find easily lost items like wallets and keys. Hulls says data from Tile devices won't be sold.
Life360 does give an option to its app users to disable the sale of location data.