Published: Sun, January 13, 2019
Money | By Ralph Mccoy

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

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

The phone companies then sell this information to aggregators like Zumigo and Microbilt.These turn around and sell the data to piecemeal to other businesses and individuals. When contacted by Ars, Verizon said it has already stopped location data sharing agreements with limited exceptions for roadside assistance companies.

A researcher reportedly paid $300 to a bounty hunter who was then able to geolocate a phone down to a location in a specific neighborhood only blocks away from the actual location of the targeted phone.

Like this story? Subscribe to FierceWireless! Sign up today to get wireless news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go. Even law enforcement agencies rely on it to build cases.

Verizon was the only one of the four major carriers that wasn't flagged by Motherboard's investigation. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., about Vice's report.

At the present time, several lawyers have drafted privacy legislation that would include a "Do Not Track" database, allowing Americans to opt out of data tracking. The bill calls for fines up to 4% of a company's annual revenue on first offense and 10- to 20-year criminal penalties for senior executives. It will end in March, as planned and promised.' For what it's worth, Legere this past summer said that T-Mobile would stop selling 'customer location data to shady middlemen'.

Wyden, widely regarded as Washington's leading lawmaker on matters where privacy and security intersect, circulated draft legislation late previous year to combat this issue specifically. However, we've now learned that a different "Securus" - MicroBilt - has been selling phone geolocation services with little oversight to a spread of different private industries. "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".

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"I'm extraordinarily troubled by reports of this system of repackaging and reselling location data to unregulated third-party services for potentially nefarious purposes", Sen.

The announcement follows sharp demands by federal lawmakers for an investigation into the alleged misuse of data, which came to light when Motherboard revealed a complex chain of unauthorized information sharing that ended with a bounty hunter successfully tracking down a reporter's device.

T-Mobile, the carrier most directly cited in Motherboard's report, said it takes the privacy and security of its customers' information seriously and will not tolerate misuse of customer data.

"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", a T-Mobile spokesperson told Ars this week.

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. "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. Even if carriers sell the data to legitimate companies for beneficial reasons such as roadside assistance, it only takes a few degrees of separation (the roadside assistance company sells it to someone else, and so on) for the data to end up in the wrong hands.

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