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

In addition to telecoms selling cell phone location data to company, the researcher said that there is a trickle down effect with the information, which could land in the wrong hands.

The move follows a Tuesday report on Vice's Motherboard site that showed how bounty hunters can track phone locations using carrier data.

The announcements reflect a major victory for privacy advocates who have slammed corporate America over its handling of consumers' personal information, often to their personal and economic expense. T-Mobile's initial promise in June 2018 did not specify an end date.

"While some carriers have now recommitted to stopping such unauthorized disclosure, the public can no longer rely on their voluntary promises to protect this extremely sensitive information", Pallone said in a letter to the FCC.

Sprint said earlier this week that it is "investigating this matter and it would be inappropriate to comment further until that process is complete".

In many cases, consent is needed to track a phone, such as in the case of roadside assistance, who may send a text to the customer's phone before they start to track them. "We have previously stated that we are terminating the agreements we have with third party data aggregators and we are almost finished with that process".

Those companies may not be living up to their promises, though.

"The FCC must take immediate action to ensure no wireless carrier is allowing the rampant disclosure of real-time location data, and take enforcement action against carriers that violated the Commission's rules and the trust of their customers", Pallone said.

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T-Mobile made a similar announcement yesterday, saying that it had already blocked location data requests from aggregator Zumigo (which was specifically mentioned in Motherboard's report) and that it was nearly done severing ties with other third-party data aggregators.

In the wake of a bombshell report detailing how carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile sell real-time location data of subscribers to third-parties, both of the aforementioned carriers have since come out and said that they will stop the practice immediately.

The FCC commissioner agreed with her in a tweet, writing that "It shouldn't be that you pay a few hundred dollars to a bounty hunter and then they tell you in real time where a phone is ..." "This entire ecosystem needs oversight". That's because it isn't the first time U.S. carriers have pledged to safeguard their customers' location data.

As Motherboard reported, there are legitimate uses for the sharing of location data, including detecting financial fraud or locating motorists who need roadside assistance.

Pallone is asking for a meeting on January 14, even if the government shutdown isn't over by then. He said Congress should advance his legislation that would grant the FTC greater authority to safeguard consumer data and fine companies for privacy and security violations.

US Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote, "This information could be obtained by anyone: a stalker, an ex, or a child predator".

Sprint said in a statement: "Protecting our customers' privacy and security is a top priority, and we are transparent about that in our Privacy Policy". After they expire, Verizon customers will have to agree to have their location data sold. "Over the past few months, as we committed to do, we have been shutting down everything else".

According to Cox, the source claimed to have received the data from a firm called Microbit.

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