Family safety app Life360 is selling your exact location data
Total data sales revenue, 2020
Popular family-tracking company Life360 is selling explicit location data to advertisers and other interested parties, according to a horrifying new report from The Markup. Location data collected by the Life360 app has already been sold to more than a dozen data brokers, each of which then sells that data to…anyone who’s looking to buy it.
It’s every privacy advocate’s nightmare, really — and parents’ on top of that. The Life360 app’s entire reason for existence is to help parents keep track of their kids and ensure their safety. Now it turns out that data is being used to do exactly the opposite.
Former Life360 employees spilled the beans to The Markup because they hoped to illuminate just how troubling the data economy has become. Two former data brokers from external companies (X-Mode and Cuebiq) also spoke to the publication.
More than 33 million people trust Life360 with following their every move around the world. But it gets worse: Life360 just two weeks ago purchased Tile, another company focused on location-tracking.
Not exactly a denial — When asked whether or not Life360 is actually one of the largest contributors to the location data economy, founder Chris Hulls said the company has “no means to confirm or deny the accuracy” of the statement.
“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.
Everything but governments — Two former Life360 employees told The Markup that the company doesn’t really take the time to anonymize the data it sells, though. Life360 reportedly only removes the most obvious of identifying data, without really making it difficult to de-anonymize, and essentially the only entity Life360 isn’t willing to sell to are governmental ones.
Life360’s privacy problems aren’t exactly new; as The Markup points out, TikTok users have even gone as far as to review-bomb the app’s listing with one-star reviews. That instance was more about kids feeling like their privacy had been invaded by their parents, though.
There is an option to stop Life360 from selling your data, but it’s hidden within a few nested menus. Unless you know where to look for it — and being aware that you’re opted into it by default — there’s no way you’d even know the option existed.
Improving digital privacy has been at the top of many companies’ to-do lists in 2021, motivated in part by strict new requirements created for Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store. For others, like Life360, profits are obviously still more important than consumer privacy.