Beware! Phone Companies May Be Selling Your Location Data

T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T are under fire for selling customer location data

T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T are under fire for selling customer location data

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.

Cox explained that this was possible because T-Mobile was partnered with data aggregate company Zumingo, which then sold location data to Microbilt, then to a bail bond company, then to the source who found the phone's location.

Motherboard reporter Joseph Cox wrote, "I gave a bounty hunter a phone number".

Rep. Frank Pallone, the House Energy and Commerce committee chair, is asking the FCC to end location data sales from mobile carriers.

Motherboard's story earlier this week highlighted how customer location data can end up in the wrong hands.

As things stand, despite what appears, again, to be unambiguous promises to end location data selling, there is nothing to stop mobile telcos from simply coming up with a different name or spin for their location-peddling services, and firing it all up again. T-Mobile chief executive John Legere tweeted at the time that he "personally evaluated the issue" and promised that the company "will not sell customer location data to shady middlemen". "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. The company also stated that it was working to fulfil its promise made last summer to sever ties with third-party data aggregators. According to Motherboard, "Microbilt shared that data with a customer using its mobile phone tracking product".

T-Mobile said in a statement to The Verge that it has "blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo".

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.

Sprint and AT&T also issued statement in June vowing to discontinue the practice of selling location data. 'We are investigating this matter and it would be inappropriate to comment further until that process is complete'.

In a statement on Thursday, AT&T said: "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", adding: "We are immediately eliminating the remaining services and will be done in March".

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".

Following the revelation this month that nothing has changed, Senator Wyden has again called for an FCC investigation, and again argued for a privacy law that would protect United States citizens from having their personal data sold without their permission.

Senator Wyden, who has crusaded for tighter data privacy rules, called on Congress to pass his proposed legislation to crack down on the abuse of consumer data. Following the reports, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent letters to the four major carriers demanding more information about the practices. Nevertheless, the company told PCMag it has been winding down its existing location tracking agreements with third parties since pledging to take action last June.