Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

AT&T, T-Mobile to stop selling location of customers to third parties

T-Mobile store front sign All you need to track any phone’s location is a small bribe
Priscilla Morrison | 13 January, 2019, 17:25

AT&T says it will stop selling all location data from mobile phones to brokers following a report that companies are still passing on that information to shadowy firmswithout customer knowledge.

In a statement on Thursday, AT&T said: "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", adding: "We are immediately eliminating the remaining services and will be done in March".

Past year we stopped most location aggregation services while maintaining some that protect our customers, such as roadside assistance and fraud prevention.

The sensitive data was available because AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint sell the information to third-party "location aggregators". "We're doing this right and shutting them down one by one, so customers who use this for safety services can make other arrangements", he added.

After Wyden called T-Mobile CEO John Legere out on Twitter for failing to live up to a promise he made in June, Legere responded and said he keeps his word.

"Wireless carriers are promising, yet again, to stop sharing Americans' location data without their consent". It will end completely in March.

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All of that said, there's countless folks who think they're taking meaningful steps to protect their privacy by deleting Facebook (or on-phone apps), yet are oblivious to the perils of walking around with a stock carrier phone in their pocket. As an illustrative example, Joseph Cox of Motherboard managed to track down the real-time location of his friend (who was a willing participant in the experiment) for just $300.

Since the publication of the Motherboard report, mobile carriers have come out to promise more privacy for subscribers and more transparency. He claimed to have promised to end the whole thing in March, though we have been unable to find any reference to March 2019 back in June 2018. T-Mobile shares location data with an aggregator called Zumigo, which shares information with MicroBilt.

Until carriers cut ties with data aggregation companies like Zumigo, or until the United States introduces legislation that prevents the selling of this data, this harmful practice will likely continue as usual. As we saw with the Securus scandal (when a local Sheriff was busted snooping on the private cellular location data of Judges and fellow law enforcement officers), everybody in this chain of dysfunction likes to play stupid when the problem repeatedly comes to light. First, we should explain that an MVNO is a mobile virtual network operator. She tweeted Tuesday: "The FCC needs to investigate".

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. It's time for the FCC to get its act together". While it's always been known that carriers sell location data to certain third-parties for ostensibly reasonable purposes, the practice has become problematic because the data ultimately winds up in the wrong hands. On Friday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-NJ, asked the FCC to provide the committee's staff with an emergency briefing on the matter. The FCC is closed because of the government shutdown.

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