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

AT&T says it’ll stop selling location data amid calls for federal investigation

AT&T signage is displayed at 17th Street and Avenue of the Americas in New York. Stephen Yang

When reached for comment, T-Mobile directed us to Legere's Twitter feed, where he wrote that the company has "blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo on behalf of Microbilt" and that the company is almost finished with the process of "terminating the agreements" it has with third-dfparty data aggregators.

'We have terminated all other such arrangements, ' the company said in a statement.

The investigation chronicled a journalist hiring a bounty hunter to track down their cell phone location using telecom data.

"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.

"Last year we stopped most location aggregation services while maintaining some that protect our customers, such as roadside assistance and fraud prevention", AT&T said in a statement to CNET. We're doing it the right way to avoid impacting consumers who use these types of services for things like emergency assistance. These companies then sold that data to other companies, and so on and so forth. The firm received the data from a location "aggregator" called Zumigo, which had in turn purchased it directly from T-Mobile.

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". The FTC could also probably ding T-Mobile for being "unfair and deceptive" under Section 5 of the FTC act, yet has been similarly mute as carriers bullshit their way around their failures on this front. However, a recent report by Motherboard discovered that the carriers are still selling location information to these aggregators, opening up the risk that this data could get into the hands of bad actors.

As Motherboard reported, there are legitimate uses for the sharing of location data, including detecting financial fraud or locating motorists who need roadside assistance.

All of this comes after Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T promised to end its contracts with aggregation companies.

Tweeting a response to the Motherboard article, Rosenworcel wrote: "The @fcc needs to investigate".

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.

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 previous 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".

The commission's senior Democrat, Jessica Rosenworcel, concurs.

This led to several lawmakers calling for an investigation into the practice of data sharing. "This entire ecosystem needs oversight". Following the reports, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent letters to the four major carriers demanding more information about the practices.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai hasn't offered any comment.

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