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Tile’s new owner sells location data to ‘virtually anyone’ – report

The would-be new owner of Tile – the company that makes the hugely popular Bluetooth item trackers – has been accused of selling location data to “virtually anyone.”

A report from The Markup, which will be of grave concern to millions of Tile owners, quotes former employees at the Life360 company, which plans announced its intentions to buy Tile just two weeks ago.

Life360 is a location sharing application designed for families, but today’s report says the company is willing to sell data from its 33 million customers to anyone “who wants to buy it”.

The sourcing is backed up by two former staffers at ‘location data brokers’ Cuebiq and X-Mode. A former employee at the latter said Life360’s data was among the most valuable sources out there. The report says there are up to a dozen of these companies purchasing data revealing families’ and childrens’ whereabouts from Life360.

One of the former Life360 employees said the company doesn’t make much effort to reduce the precision of its data or hash information in order to protect the privacy of individual users.

In a statement issued to The Markup, CEO Chris Hulls said: “We have no means to confirm or deny the accuracy” of whether the company’s data is among the most prominent sources in the location tracking industry. However, he added that the sale of data helps to keep its services free to use for many of its customers. He wouldn’t not disclose the names of the companies the company sold data to.

He said in the emailed 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.”

The company’s privacy policy is quite clear on the fact that some location data may be shared with (i.e. sold to) other companies. The policy states the company “may also share your information with third parties in a form that does not reasonably identify you directly. These third parties may use the de-identified information for any purpose.”

The Tile takeover has not been rubber-stamped yet but its definitely something to be aware of once the deal goes through. Hulls says there is are no plans to flog data from Tile devices, but it’s certainly a case of keeping a watching eye on this story.

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