AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint seek to make amends over location breach

14 January, 2019, 02:13 | Author: Brooke Harris
  • All you need to track any phone’s location is a small bribe

AT&T said Thursday that it will stop selling its customers' location data to third-party service providers after a report this week said the information was winding up in the wrong hands. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon made a similar promise last June, but recent developments showed that people could still obtain anyone's location 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.

However, without these rules, the broadband providers are not incentivized to change anything despite their aloof public ideals of prioritizing consumer data privacy - even with Securus past year and Motherboard's exposé about MicroBilt a few days ago, a representative of T-Mobile's response was that it is only "nearly finished the process of terminating its agreements with location aggregators". Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said in a statement after the Motherboard report was published.

"We take the privacy and security of our customers' information very seriously and will not tolerate any misuse of our customers' data". 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. This practice continues, even though wireless carriers promised to end the practice last June.

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

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.

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Watts went on to say to the newspaper that he and the rest of the executives decided it would be best to cut ties with R. Kelly due to the current political and cultural landscape, especially with the rise of the #MeToo movement.

The phone number, in this case, belonged to T-Mobile, but a larger investigation found cell phone companies such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have all been selling consumer location data, which eventually trickles down to the hands of those not eligible to have access to such information. 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. The bounty hunter then shared this information with a bail industry source, who shared it with Motherboard.

Motherboard also reached out to Zumigo, the company who sold T-Mobile user data to Microbilt in the first place. "That's not right. This entire ecosystem needs oversight".

"What we were told in 2018 is that they would stop selling location data and now we're seeing evidence that it's still happening".

The FCC did not immediately respond to requests for comment; the agency's operations are limited because of the ongoing government shutdown.

We've noted a few times now that while Facebook gets a lot of justified heat for its privacy scandals, the stuff going on in the cellular data and app market in regards to location data makes many of Facebook's privacy issues seem like a grade-school picnic.

Pallone is asking for a meeting on January 14, even if the government shutdown isn't over by then. "To be transparent, we have maintained the prior arrangements for four roadside assistance companies during the winter months for public safety reasons but they have agreed to transition out of the existing arrangements by the end of the March".

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