AT&T, T-Mobile to stop selling location of customers to third parties
- Author: Eleanor Harrison Jan 14, 2019,
Jan 14, 2019, 2:13
It was just previous year when Senator Ron Wyden wrote to the Federal Communications Commission about Securus, a firm that that was offering geolocation of phones to low-level law enforcement without a warrant, thereby jeopardizing cell phone locations of not only inmates, but anyone with a phone number - which is pretty much everyone.
Verizon, the parent company of TechCrunch, wasn't explicitly cleared from sharing location data with third-parties in Motherboard's report - only that the bounty hunter refused to search for a Verizon number.
"In light of recent reports about the misuse of location services, we have made a decision to eliminate all location aggregation services - even those with clear consumer benefits", an AT&T spokesman stated this week.
T-Mobile's CEO John Legere confirmed in a tweet that they are ending the location aggregator work.
All four major United States carriers vowed to stop selling customer location data to third-parties last June in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Don't Miss: Amazon's best-selling Bluetooth earbuds hit a new all-time low of $15.99 with this exclusive coupon Addressing the issue head on, a Sprint spokesperson told The Verge that they company will no longer "knowingly share personally identifiable geo-location information" but for requests from legal authorities.
Some mobile carriers have promised to end this practice by March, but lawmakers are skeptical.
But, just as we warned at the time, it was all weasel words. "Congress needs to pass strong legislation to protect Americans' privacy and finally hold corporations accountable when they put your safety at risk by letting stalkers and criminals track your phone on the dark web".
The investigation led to outcries from senators who demanded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) look into the matter.
Amid increasing pressure from federal lawmakers, three of the major USA wireless carriers announced plans to end the sale of location data sharing after a report by Motherboard showed just how easy it was for a bounty hunter to track a reporter's phone.
Tweeting a response to the Motherboard article, Rosenworcel wrote: "The @fcc needs to investigate".
"It turns out that they're selling that information to companies called location aggregators who in turn are selling that to shady middlemen who for a few hundred dollars will sell to anyone, your location within a few hundred meters". "This entire ecosystem needs oversight".
The FCC did not immediately respond to requests for comment; the agency's operations are limited because of the ongoing government shutdown. T-Mobile's initial promise in June 2018 did not specify an end date. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said in a statement to Motherboard that she was "extraordinarily troubled" with the reports and that, "if true, this practice represents a legitimate threat to our personal and national security".
After paying a bounty hunter's bail bond company $300, Motherboard was provided with a screenshot of the real-time location of a specific phone down to a radius of a few blocks. Verizon seems to be the exception among the big-four wireless carriers. As a result of the ongoing partial shutdown of the USA federal government, the FTC was unable to provide a statement.