On April 4, 2017, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office announced a settlement with Copley Advertising LLC (“Copley”) in a case involving geofencing.
Copley used geolocation technology to create a virtual fence around women’s reproductive healthcare facilities. Once the women crossed the virtual fence, Copley then sent targeted advertisements to the women’s phones or other mobile devices. The ads contained messages such as “Pregnancy Help” or “You Have Choices,” and linked to websites with information about alternatives to abortion. Women could also have a live chat with a “pregnancy support specialist.”
The Massachusetts AG alleged that Copley’s use of geofencing violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act because it tracked consumers’ locations and disclosed them to third-party advertisers to target consumers with “potentially unwanted advertising based on inferences about [their] private, sensitive, and intimate medical or physical condition.”
The Assurance of Discontinuance requires Copley to agree to neither directly nor indirectly geofence “the [v]icinity of any Medical Center located in Massachusetts to infer the health status, medical condition or medical treatment of any person.”
In announcing the settlement, Attorney General Healey stated that “[c]onsumers are entitled to privacy in their medical decisions and conditions. This settlement will help ensure that consumers in Massachusetts do not have to worry about being targeted by advertisers when they seek medical care.”