Data Broker Near Intelligence Linked Visits to Hundreds of Planned Parenthood Locations and Anti-Abortion Ad Campaign

Alfred Ng, Politico:

A company allegedly tracked people’s visits to nearly 600 Planned Parenthood locations across 48 states and provided that data for one of the largest anti-abortion ad campaigns in the nation, according to an investigation by Sen. Ron Wyden, a scope that far exceeds what was previously known.


Wyden’s letter asks the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Near Intelligence, a location data provider that gathered and sold the information. The company claims to have information on 1.6 billion people across 44 countries, according to its website.

Scrutiny over Near Intelligence first began at the Markup before the Wall Street Journal reported how its data was used for this ad campaign.

Data brokers like Near provide the critical link that allows precise targeting for ad campaigns like this one. People are overwhelmingly concerned about the exploitation of their private data, yet have little understanding of how it works. It is hard to blame anyone for finding this industry impenetrable. That makes it easier for data brokers like Near to dampen even the most modest attempts at restricting their business and, because regulators have limited legal footing on privacy grounds, they must resort to finding procedural infractions. It is like Al Capone’s imprisonment on tax offences.

An effective privacy framework would make it more difficult for third parties to collect users’ data, would limit its use, and would require its destruction after it has served its purpose. Unfortunately, a policy like that would also destroy the data broker industry, sharply curtail Silicon Valley advertising giants, and limit intelligence gathering efforts. So, instead, users must nominally consent and pretend they — we — have meaningful control.