A popular family safety app called Life360 is reportedly selling precise location data on its tens of millions of users. It is promoted as a useful tool for keeping tabs on kids’ whereabouts via mobile devices.
However, it’s been brought to light that the app is selling location data on children and their families to a handful of data brokers, who have then sold the information to whoever is willing to pay the most. One multi-billion-dollar industry that buys, packages, and sells people’s movements relies heavily on the app for its raw location data.
The app itself is free to download and use, but there are optional paid upgrades available. Extra benefits are available in the Life360 Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans. Prices for the annual premium plans sit between $50 and $200.
Life360 User Experience
Life360 is a location-sharing app that works in real time and can be downloaded on both iOS and Android devices. A user’s “circles” are a closed group of people with whom the user can share their location in real time.
The app’s primary function is to allow users to monitor loved ones. This popular family tracking app not only displays the live locations of all members of the group but also displays their rest stops as they occur.
Popular driving safety features like crash detection, real-time speed tracking, and roadside assistance are all available within the app.
It’s clear that families are the focus of development for Life360. The app’s developers tout their product as a means to “bring families closer together” on the app’s official website.
The Backstory Of Life360
Chris Hulls established Life360 in San Francisco a little over ten years ago. Following Hulls’ 2008 victory in a Google developer challenge, in which he won $250,000 in funding. The first version of the app was released on the Google Play store.
The popularity of the Life360 app, available for both iOS and Android, has skyrocketed since its inception. Life360 boasts millions of users in more than 140 countries on its website.
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In this article, we’ll discuss the Life360 app and show you what real users are saying about it everywhere online.
Data Privacy Issue
Using the Life360 app one can track the whereabouts of friends and family in real time, as well as their vehicle speed, battery life, and more.
Life360 is a popular app for parents who want to keep tabs on their children remotely for safety. The app is similar to Apple’s native location-sharing features. But it also includes emergency safety features like an SOS button and vehicle crash detection. A number of lives, according to the company, have been spared thanks to these innovations.
There is a booming multibillion-dollar industry that trades in mobile device location data. Life360’s location-based features provide data for this market. Insights gleaned from location data are so valuable that advertisers, governments, and investors are willing to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for them.
Why Life360 Is A Privacy Nightmare?
Life360 is probably the most popular family locator on the market, what with its recent purchase of Tile (a Bluetooth tracker device company) and its growing presence on teens’ complaints about the app on TikTok. There are a lot of people using Life360 to stay safe by sharing their locations with friends and family.
Life360’s selling of user location data to third parties was exposed in a recent Markup report. According to The Markup’s interviews with former employees of the family safety app, Life360 has been selling user location data to third-party location data brokers like Cuebiq and X-Mode. Users’ location information is sold to third-party data brokers, who then resell it to advertisers, earning a profit for Life360.
Since Life360 is typically used by families, the Markup article and its revelation are especially concerning for parents. Life360 has features that would entice families to check in on each other’s whereabouts around the clock, so it is often labeled as a child location tracker or family safety app. Minors whose parents invited them to the app out of concern for their safety would be among those whose privacy would be compromised by the app’s decision to disclose their precise locations.
Location Sharing Dilemma
In the case of Life360, the app requires the maximum amount of location permissions possible in order to function properly. When using an app that requires access to the user’s location, many of them let the user choose how long the app can use their location data. Because Life360 is a real-time location tracker, it constantly requests access to your location and will not operate without it.
At the bottom of the permissions, the following disclaimer is written in smaller print: “Your location data may be shared with Partners for the purposes of crash detection, research, analytics, attribution, and tailored advertising.” Users can prevent their location data from being sold in the privacy settings, but this option is neither visible nor a part of the prompt.
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According to Life360’s Hulls, millions of users have taken advantage of this option to prevent their data from being shared.
Furthermore, it is difficult to assume that the user data was shared only with reliable advertisers. Given the questionable practices of the location data brokers. For immigration law enforcement, it has been reported that data brokers have been selling user data to federal agencies. A Catholic official was forced to resign after his frequent visits to gay bars were discovered through his phone’s location.
Considering that Life360 stores personal data and sells them to third parties. The answer to the question “Is Life360 a safe app to use?” is no! There is no reason for a premium app like Life360 to be sharing such private information.
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