Invasion of Privacy? FTC claims mobile advertising company tracked users without consent

ID-100303666When you set your privacy setting to not allow an app to know your location, you expect that privacy to be honored. But what if it isn’t?

According to the FTC, a mobile advertising company took an extra in trying to lure consumers. How? By secretly tracking people through their devices, regardless of their privacy settings.

The FTC says InMobi tracked people using information from the Wi-Fi networks connected to or near their devices. The idea was to send consumers location-based advertising — ads that display on a mobile app when the user’s location suggests they’re likely to buy, such as when they’re inside an advertiser’s store.

The company gave app developers software to display the ads in their apps. However, they allegedly did not clearly tell the developers the software would track location even if someone didn’t want to be tracked and had set a device to deny access to its location information.

So, if you had set your privacy setting for the app to never know your location, it wouldn’t have mattered.

InMobi’s network reaches more than a than a billion devices worldwide through thousands of popular apps, including children’s apps.

The case is the first time the Federal Trade Commission charged a mobile ad company with deception and with violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

In it settlement with the FTC, InMobi will pay a $4 million civil penalty, which is suspended to $950,000 based on the company’s financial condition. In addition, the company will be required to delete all information it collected without permission.