Monday, 25 March, 2019

AT&T, T-Mobile And Verizon Vow To Stop Selling Location Data 01/14/2019

All you need to track any phone’s location is a small bribe U.S. cell carriers are probably still selling your real-time phone location data
Russell Knight | 14 January, 2019, 02:13

It's also interesting that this experiment was done with a T-Mobile device given that John Legere this past June pledged that his company "will not sell customer location data to shady middlemen". As it turned out, neither carrier stopped this practice, and yesterday AT&T promised once more that it would cut out sales of this data to third parties.

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.

"In light of recent reports about the misuse of location services, we have chose to eliminate all location aggregation services - even those with clear consumer benefits", an AT&T spokesman stated this week. However, we've now learned that a different "Securus" - MicroBilt - has been selling phone geolocation services with little oversight to a spread of different private industries. The firm received the data from a location "aggregator" called Zumigo, which had in turn purchased it directly from T-Mobile. We're doing it the right way to avoid impacting consumers who use these types of services for things like emergency assistance.

"It's not enough for these tech giants and their CEOs to lay blame for misuse and abuse of information on downstream companies", he added in his tweet.

T-Mobile said in a statement to The Verge that it has "blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo". Thanks to the sale of this data, the location of nearly any smartphone can be found using just the user's phone number. Sign up today to get wireless news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

"Wireless carriers are promising, yet again, to stop sharing Americans' location data without their consent".

"As you're most likely aware, Verizon is not among the companies cited in recent media accounts regarding issues with location tracking", Verizon said.

After repeat questions on what that actually meant, a few days later T-Mobile US clarified that it was "winding down our location aggregation agreements".

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"We only permit the sharing of location when a customer gives permission for cases like fraud prevention or emergency roadside assistance, or when required by law", an AT&T spokesperson told the site.

"This is what happens when there are no financial penalties that are meaningful to the companies when they breach your data and destroy your privacy", said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. "We have terminated all other such arrangements".

Verizon says that it ended its agreement with Zumigo before the original report came out this week.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who has criticized the privacy practices of Facebook and other companies that collect massive quantities of user data, said the report highlights how customers and policymakers "have been kept in the dark" about the ways personal information is gathered, repackaged and sold. According to a blog post from Motherboard's Joseph Cox, these surveillance capabilities are available to individuals and businesses and sometimes sold through word of mouth.

"The FCC needs to investigate", Rosenworcel said Wednesday on MSNBC.

The commission's senior Democrat, Jessica Rosenworcel, concurs.

"There are entities out there that will sell information about where you are with your cell phone in real time, it's like this: for a few hundred dollars, anyone can pay to figure out where you are within a few hundred meters". Congress should act on passing comprehensive legislation and empowering specialized agencies like the FCC.

She wants to investigate how cellphone companies sell your location. The FCC is closed because of the government shutdown.

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