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Mobile Advertising Company Fined $950,000 for Using Wi-Fi Signals to Secretly Track Phone Users

by Amando Flavio, Activist Post:

An India-based multinational mobile advertising company, Inmobi, has agreed to pay a fine of $950,000 to the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for using Wi-Fi signals to secretly track phone users in the country, obtaining their locations for adverts on their mobile phones.

InMobi was founded in 2007. The company has financial support from the Japanese telecommunications giant, Softbank, and the American venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In 2013, InMobi won a spot in MIT Technology Review’s 50 most disruptive companies of the year.

In a civil lawsuit filed on June 22, 2016, at a District Court in San Francisco, California, FTC alleged that InMobi undermined mobile phone users’ ability to make informed decisions about the collection of their location information.

According to the lawsuit, InMobi’s software used nearby Wi-Fi signals to infer locations when permission was not given. The company then archived the location information and used it to push targeted advertisements to individual phone users.

Also, InMobi collected nearby basic service set identification addresses, which act as unique serial numbers for wireless access points. The company, which thousands of Android and iOS app makers use to deliver ads to end users, then fed each BSSID into a “geocorder” database to infer the phone user’s latitude and longitude; even when an end user had not provided permission for location to be tracked through the phone’s dedicated location feature, Ars Technica reports.

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