Tracking Users Via Wi-Fi Without Permission? Get Fined!
Gareth Andrews / 7 years ago
When it comes to advertising these days, putting something in the newspaper doesn’t seem to quite cut it anymore. Companies will do anything from tracking your online activity to forcing you to fill out surveys before letting you use their sites, but one company decided to go further. InMobi decided to track users via wi-fi and all they’ve been left with is a giant fine and a bad reputation.
While most apps ask your permission to use your location InMobi did this in secret according to the FTC who collected the serial numbers for nearby wireless access points. Using thousands of apps running on countless devices the company mapped these using a “geocoder” database which calculated the phones longitude and latitude, without a single mention of what it was doing to the user.
Using this information the company served geo-targeted ads without the developers or consumers knowledge, the problem being is that many of the apps that InMobi used were children or young teens. The end result has been a rather substantial fine that was lowered from $4 million to just $950,000 thanks to the “company’s financial condition”. This is being done alongside a new privacy program that will be audited by the Federal Trade Commission every two years.