AT&T, T-Mobile Will Stop Giving Your Location Data to Third Parties

Gladys Abbott
January 13, 2019

Verizon also reportedly said it will stop sharing users' locations; the company now has agreements with roadside assistance services.

It was just past year when Senator Ron Wyden wrote to the Federal Communications Commission about Securus, a firm that that was offering geolocation of phones to low-level law enforcement without a warrant, thereby jeopardizing cell phone locations of not only inmates, but anyone with a phone number - which is pretty much everyone.

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

The calls come after reports from The New York Times and Vice that provided an alarming look at just how much location data is quietly collected through smartphones, and how that data can be accessed by third parties.

Past year we stopped most location aggregation services while maintaining some that protect our customers, such as roadside assistance and fraud prevention. He claimed to have promised to end the whole thing in March, though we have been unable to find any reference to March 2019 back in June 2018.

If Verizon reaches any new data-sharing agreements in the future, "we're insisting that customers will have to proactively consent before any location information is shared", Verizon said. The firm received the data from a location "aggregator" called Zumigo, which had in turn purchased it directly from T-Mobile. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in a statement.

AT&T and T-Mobile say they'll stop handing over your cell phone location data to third parties after a report found the information could end up for sale on the black market.

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Earlier this week, AT&T said it "only permit [s] sharing of location when a customer gives permission for cases like fraud prevention or emergency roadside assistance or when required by law". "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", the company wrote in a statement.

T-Mobile told Gizmodo in response to the story that it had "blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo".

"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.We have terminated all other such arrangements", the company said in a statement. "I think that is a problem", Rosenworcel said. Verizon sent a letter [PDF] saying it had "conducted a comprehensive review" of its "location aggregator program" and as a result would kill the agreements it had with the two companies in the program, LocationSmart and Zumigo.

The commission's senior Democrat, Jessica Rosenworcel, concurs. As an illustrative example, Joseph Cox of Motherboard managed to track down the real-time location of his friend (who was a willing participant in the experiment) for just $300. "The FCC needs to investigate". "That's not right. This entire ecosystem needs oversight".

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

The bill, which had little hope of passing in the Republican-controlled body, would've imposed stiff fines and even criminal penalties on executives who knowingly misled federal regulators about data-handling practices.

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