AT&T to end all location-data sales to data brokers

Lloyd Doyle
January 12, 2019

Days after a new report came out that show that T-Mobile and other carriers were selling customer location data that could easily be bought and used by bounty hunters to track a phone's location, T-Mobile has said that it's working to end that practice.

But cell phone companies deserve some attention, too. Fast forward to this month, and journalist Joe Cox was able to pay a bounty hunter $300 to have someone's T-Mobile US phone number tracked and located - through the exact same location reselling system that had previously been exposed.

"At least one company, called Microbilt, is selling phone geolocation services with little oversight to a spread of different private industries, ranging from auto salesmen and property managers to bail bondsmen and bounty hunters, according to sources familiar with the company's products and company documents obtained by Motherboard", Cox wrote.

Last year, a large number of US carriers were under fire for selling live location data to third-party companies, including LocationSmart and Securus.

Motherboard also reached out to Zumigo, the company who sold T-Mobile user data to Microbilt in the first place. T-Mobile CEO John Legere even made the pledge on Twitter. 'We're doing it the right way to avoid impacting consumers who use these types of services for things like emergency assistance.

This call revealed that even after the phone companies in the U.S. promised that they would stop selling it, they continued to do same.

T-Mobile told in a statement early Wednesday: "We take the privacy and security of our customers" information very seriously and will not tolerate any misuse of our customers' data'. T-Mobile has also blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo on behalf of Microbilt as an additional precaution.

New reporting by Motherboard shows that while companies may have severed ties with LocationSmart, a lot of them overlooked the other big player in the location-tracking business, Zumigo. 'We are investigating this matter and it would be inappropriate to comment further until that process is complete'.

Last year, news broke that your cellphone service provider is probably selling access to your real-time location.

'Over the past few months, as we committed to do, we have been shutting down everything else. "Upon investigating the alleged abuse and learning of the violation of our contract, we terminated the customer's access to our products and they will not be eligible for reinstatement based on this violation".

After Motherboard published its report, Wyden along with Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) spoke out about the revelations and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for an investigation.

Wyden, who urged Senate colleagues on Tuesday to take up the bill, reiterated in a statement to Motherboard: "It's time for Congress to step in and pass strong privacy legislation, like my bill, to safeguard our data and hold companies accountable when they fail".

Despite the disruption, Pallone said the issue was a public safety and national security concern. "Major carriers pledged to end these practices, but it appears to have been more empty promises to consumers", Wyden wrote in a tweet.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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