Life360 Reportedly Selling Users’ Location Data to Brokers

Close up of Life360 on Google Play Store on a Smartphone

A recently published investigative report has found that popular safety app Life360 sells its users’ location information to data brokers.

The Markup, a non-profit media organization, claims that Life360 is a “firehose of data” and has sold the information of children and families to approximately a dozen data brokers. The brokers then sell the data to “virtually anyone wants to buy it.”

Furthermore, the companies that buy the data have very few safeguards in place to secure sensitive information. The Markup interviewed two former employees of Life360, as well as two persons who worked at location brokerages. Both sets of interviewees gave accounts of Life360’s concerning data practices.

About Life360

The Life360 app is marketed as a safety app and is popular among parents. It allows users to view the accurate and real-time location of family members and friends. Parents often use the device to keep an eye on their children.

The app also offers location sharing features, as well as emergency features such as an SOS button and vehicle crash detection.

There is a growing demand for Life360’s data points. According to The Markup, the data is highly sought after by a “multi-billion dollar industry that trades in location gathered from mobile phones.” In fact, advertisers, investors, and government agencies are more than willing to spend large sums of money for this information, and the insights that are derived from them.

Concerns Around Life360’s Efforts to Preserve Privacy

The Markup said that selling location data is very important to Life360’s financial health. As a matter of fact, in 2020, 20% of the company’s revenue came from selling location data ($16 million).

Selling information, such as location data, is a cause for concern when it is not sufficiently secured. This means that a buyer should not be able to personally identify users from the purchased data set.

The two former Life360 employees stated that the company “fails to take necessary precautions to ensure that location histories cannot be traced back to individuals.”

They added that while the company removes the most obvious identifying user information, it does not make more efforts to reduce the precision.

Chris Hulls, Founder and CEO of Life360, said that the company’s contracts prohibit buyers from re-identifying its users. The contract also contains additional privacy and safety protective practices.

Hulls added that the company follows industry best practices to secure data and that only a few customers receive “raw” location data. He claims that Life360 relies on its customers to “obfuscate that data based on their specific applications.”

Life360 Data Ends up in the Hands of US Government Agencies

The second cause for concern has to do with whom the data ends up with. In 2020, Life360 came out with a policy against selling data to any government agencies for law enforcement purposes.

Regarding this policy, Hulls stated, “From a philosophical standpoint, we do not believe it is appropriate for government agencies to attempt to obtain data in the commercial market as a way to bypass an individual’s right to due process.”

However, government agencies did manage to obtain Life360 location data from the company’s other customers

Companies such as Cuebiq, X-Mode, and SafeGraph are all customers of Life360. They have also sold data to the US Department of Defense and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Technology policy researcher
Prateek is a technology policy researcher with a background in law. His areas of interest include data protection, privacy, digital currencies, and digital literacy. Outside of his research interests, Prateek is an avid reader and is engaged in projects on sustainable farming practices in India.