Life360, a popular tracking app that bills itself as “the world’s leading family safety service,” is purportedly selling location data on the 31 million families and kids that use it to data brokers. The chilling revelation may make users of the Tile Bluetooth tracker, which is being bought by Life360, think twice before continuing to use the device.
Life360’s data selling practices were revealed in a damning report published by the Markup on Monday. The report claims that Life360 sells location data on its users to roughly a dozen data brokers, some of which have sold data to U.S. government contractors. The data brokers then proceed to sell the location data to “virtually anyone who wants to buy it.” Life360 is purportedly one of the largest sources of data for the industry, the outlet found.
While selling location data on families and kids is already alarming, what’s even more frightening is that Life360 is purportedly failing to take steps to protect the privacy of the data it sells. This could potentially allow the location data, which the company says is anonymised, to be linked back to the people it belongs to.
The Markup based its report on interviews with former employees of Life360 and former employees of the data brokers that purportedly buy data from the company, all of whom were provided anonymity.
Chris Hulls, Life360’s CEO, told the Markup that the company could not “confirm or deny” the accuracy that it was one of the largest sources of data for the industry. He also said selling location data allowed it to offer free services. These include location sharing, location ETAs, family driving reports, two days of location history, and battery monitoring, among others.
“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,” Hulls said.
Life360 told Gizmodo on Monday that it was preparing a response to the Markup’s report. It claimed that the outlet’s report was full of misinformation and inaccuracies that it was taking further action on. In addition, Life360 affirmed that only a small part of the information it provided the outlet had been included in the report and that the quotes published weren’t accurate and had been taken out of context.
Nonetheless, selling location data on families and kids has proven to be an important financial lifeline for Life360, according to the Markup. The outlet reported that Life360 has struggled to make a profit and reported a loss of $US16.3 (A$23) million last year.
Case in point: Life360 obtained $US693,000 (A$983,367) from selling location data in 2016, but that amount seems paltry now. In 2020, the company made $US16 (A$23) million from selling location data, or 20% of its revenue, the Markup found. On top of that, it also earned $US6 (A$9) million from a partnership with the Arity, a mobility data and analytics company founded by Allstate, that year.
As far as Tile goes, Hulls, Life360’s CEO, told the Markup that the company has no plans to sell location data from Tile devices.
You can check out the Markup’s report in full here.