AT&T, T-Mobile Will Stop Giving Your Location Data to Third Parties

AT&T, T-Mobile Will Stop Giving Your Location Data to Third Parties

T-Mobile chief executive John Legere said in a tweet that it will "completely" end "location aggregator work" in two months as well.

Location data can be bought for legitimate purposes, for example by financial firms seeking to detect fraud or by roadside-assistance companies using it to find customers whose vehicles break down, according to Motherboard. The company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The report naturally caused concern amongst lawmakers and privacy advocates.

All of this comes after Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T promised to end its contracts with aggregation companies. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in a statement.

But, just as we warned at the time, it was all weasel words.

So while broadband giants will surely whine incessantly during the looming quest to pass some meaningful rules of the road, it's worth remembering they had ample opportunities, over decades, to avoid stricter government intervention by adopting better, more ethical business practices. It would at least allow the Commission to investigate the matter with MicroBilt, but with the current government shutdown, unfortunately there is not much that can be done at the very moment - and there's no guarantee this FCC would do that anyway.

Motherboard's investigation found that telecommunications companies, including T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint, would sell location data with an aggregator, which sold the data to MicroBilt, which then sold it to a Motherboard investigator for "dirt cheap".

"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.

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"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". "That's not right. This entire ecosystem needs oversight". The bottom line is that the Ajit Pai FCC could easily address this problem using the authority it has now, they've just chosen not to because it might just hurt telecom revenues. The phone described in the Motherboard story was tied to the carrier. Journalist Joseph Cox gave a phone number and $300 to a "bounty hunter", and quickly got a Google Maps screenshot with a relatively accurate location of the phone back.

Wyden has called on the FCC to investigate the relationship between wireless carriers and data brokers. As a result of the ongoing partial shutdown of the US federal government, the FTC was unable to provide a statement. A spokesperson said the company requires anyone using its mobile device verification services for fraud prevention to get consumer consent.

"Protecting our customers' privacy and security is a top priority, and we are transparent about that in our Privacy Policy".

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.

But nobody quite dropped the ball like the carriers, which said they would not to share location data again.

"Responsible federal agencies and the U.S. Congress should continue to hold hearings to shine a light on these practices, and look at regulations to ensure companies are actually upfront with consumers about whether and how their sensitive data is being used and sold", Warner said in a statement.

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