InMobi fined Rs 6.4 crore for illegally targeting ads to minors

InMobi has been fined $950,000 (Rs. 64,452,750) for craftily working around app permissions that restrict access to location data.

InMobi has been fined $950,000 (Rs 64,452,750) for craftily working around app permissions that restrict access to location data. InMobi used two sets of data to manage this. One data set was the location of users who had given their consent to InMobi to track locations and deliver targeted apps. InMobi gathered the information of the wireless networks near the devices that had given consent, and created a database of wireless networks associated with geographic locations. Then, InMobi would then collect the details of wireless networks from consumers who were in range of these networks, and use that information to deliver them geotargetted ads, even if location tracking was turned off in the device.

InMobi has a clutch of geotargetting products that is commercially available to its customers. The "Now" suite targets customers based on their current location. The "Conditional" suite targets customers at a particular location, with an additional factor, such as day, date and time. "Psychographic" profiling allows InMobi to target customers based on months of location data. This can, for example, be used by customers of InMobi to target people who live in affluent areas, and have visited high end commodity shops in the last two months.

InMobi fined Rs 6.4 crore for illegally targeting ads to minors

Image: InMobi

Jessica Rich, director of FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection says “InMobi tracked the locations of hundreds of millions of consumers, including children, without their consent, in many cases totally ignoring consumers’ express privacy preferences. This settlement ensures that InMobi will honor consumers’ privacy choices in the future, and will be held accountable for keeping their privacy promises.”

InMobi had essentially deployed location targeting technology on all devices, irrespective of whether or not the users had given their consent. InMobi delivered location targeted ads to children, over children's apps. This violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The FTC has actually slapped a fine of $4 million (Rs. 27.14 crore), but suspended it to $950,000 (Rs. 6.4 crore) considering the financial condition of the company.

The order imposes a number of rulings on InMobi. InMobi is ordered to clearly collect consent of parents before tracking children. All existing records of children collected without their consent are to be destroyed. The company is ordered not to misrepresent its tracking practices, and make them clearly known to consumers. Any further location data from consumers will have to have their explicit consent, and all existing data gathered without such consent must be deleted. An internal comprehensive privacy program must be implemented to ensure compliance, and records kept of compliance. InMobi will also be independently audited for compliance every two years for a period of 20 years.

InMobi was founded in India and is a Singapore based company. It was one of the country's first unicorns, but no longer enjoys the unicorn status. Read more about the making of InMobi here.

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