Thursday, 17 January, 2019

AT&T Claims it will Stop Selling Your Location Data

A person's hand holding a smartphone that is displaying a map EnlargeGetty Images | skaman306
Nellie Chapman | 13 January, 2019, 17:28

AT&T says it will stop selling all location data from mobile phones to brokers following a report that companies are still passing on that information to shadowy firmswithout customer knowledge.

"In light of recent reports about the misuse of location services, we have made a decision to eliminate all location aggregation services - even those with clear consumer benefits", AT&T said in a statement.

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. Verizon, which appears to have been the only network carrier to have mostly pulled the plug on location data sales, said it is still shutting down what's left of its whereabouts-reselling operation: four location-sharing deals with roadside assistance companies, which now face the chop. T-Mobile chief executive John Legere said in a tweet that it will "completely" end "location aggregator work" in two months as well. We're doing it the right way to avoid impacting consumers who use these types of services for things like emergency assistance. In June, they vowed to scale back their location sharing partnerships after a prison technology company was found abusing the data for warrantless cell phone location lookups.

After repeat questions on what that actually meant, a few days later T-Mobile US clarified that it was "winding down our location aggregation agreements".

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.

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. But they already missed the June 2018 deadline (via ArsTechnica).

New reporting by Motherboard shows that while companies may have severed ties with LocationSmart, majority overlooked the other big player in the location-tracking business, Zumigo. 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.

Right now, senators are calling for regulation to ensure that companies are upfront with customers about how their data will be used and sold.

"The FCC needs to investigate", Rosenworcel said Wednesday on MSNBC. "T-Mobile has also blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo on behalf of Microbilt as an additional precaution".

Harris called on the Federal Communications Commission to immediately open an investigation. "The bounty hunter then shared this information with a bail industry source, who shared it with Motherboard".

AT&T had already suspended its data-sharing agreements with a number of so-called "location aggregators" a year ago in light of a congressional probe finding that some of Verizon's location data was being misused by prison officials to spy on innocent Americans. "We have followed through on our commitment to terminate aggregation arrangements and provide location information only with the express consent of our customers". Congress should act on passing comprehensive legislation and empowering specialized agencies like the FCC.