Two former Life360 employees, as well as two former employees at location data brokers X-Mode and Cuebiq, recently disclosed to The Markup that Life360 has served as a conduit for massive amounts of raw location data—perhaps the most of any source in the industry. An engineer from X-Mode, one of the brokers to whom Life360 sells location data, said the precision and sheer volume of Life360’s offering made it some of the firm’s most valuable data. Former employees at Life360 also confirmed the company sells user location data to Cuebiq, Arity (owned by Allstate), and Safegraph.
Life360 founder and CEO Chris Hulls refused to confirm or deny to The Markup that his company really serves as the largest source of location data in the industry. What Hulls did say was, “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,” which makes sense in a disappointing way; Vizio, too, makes far more money from selling user data than it does from selling its actual product.
Those who use (or now, formerly used) Life360 are probably wondering what happens to their data after it’s sold. X-Mode, Cuebiq, and SafeGraph largely focus on extracting insights from mass amounts of location data and then selling those insights to other companies for advertising and other purposes. Cuebiq began working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track mobility trends at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has publicly stated it refuses to work directly with law enforcement agencies and it also won’t provide raw data to government agencies. This contrasts starkly with X-Mode and SafeGraph, whose software development kits were banned by Google for selling user data to the government, including the US military.
Last year Life360 began prohibiting the sale of its data to law enforcement, citing a philosophical conflict with [bypassing] an individual’s right to due process. While Life360 isn’t selling its users’ location information directly to law enforcement agencies, however, its newly-revealed customers might very well be. A small disclaimer at the bottom of the Life360 app tells new users that their data may be used “for the purposes of crash detection, research, analytics, attribution and tailored advertising,” but it does not say anything about giving investors a leg up in the stock market or telling the military your last several locations.
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