Mobile carriers cut off flow of location data to brokers

Verizon, AT&T are cutting off location-data sharing contracts

In today's edition of "you probably didn't know this was still a thing but be glad it stopped", Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint have all confirmed that they're cutting ties with some third-party data brokers to whom the wireless networks had been selling customer location data.

The Verizon logo is seen on the side of a truck in New York City, U.S., October 13, 2016.

On Tuesday, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said on Twitter that it too had ended partnerships with data aggregators.

In response, Verizon is cracking down on partners that enabled the abuse by ending its data-sharing agreements with two companies, LocationSmart and Zumigo, which specialize in processing location data from U.S. wireless carriers and letting corporate customers access it. Anticipation builds for report on FBI Clinton probe Senate confirms Trump Homeland Security cyber pick MORE (D-Ore.), who wrote to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month asking the agency to investigate Securus Technologies Inc., a firm that handles phone calls from jails and prisons.

"We believe that ending the ability of law enforcement to use these critical tools will hurt public safety and put Americans at risk", the spokesman said.

But the company will not stop sharing that data entirely, the Associated Press reported.

The company disclosed its plans in a letter to Sen. And as the Location Smart and Securus scandal proved, that data isn't always all that anonymous, and can routinely be abused. "In contrast, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint seem content to continuing to sell their customers' private information to these shady middle men, Americans' privacy be damned". His office shared the companies' responses with The AP.

Sprint hinted that its privacy policy allows the phone giant to share customers' personal data, "including location information" with third-parties.

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Analyst Rich Mogull of Arizona-based Securosis LLC said telecom providers track and sell location data as a matter of course, with a wide range of businesses including Google extensively attempting to compile location datasets on consumers.

"Verizon deserves credit for taking quick action to protect its customers' privacy and security", Wyden said in a statement on Tuesday.

It's not clear how much money the mobile operators make from selling their users' locations to third parties but it's clearly enough to make them try to weasel their way out of agreeing to stop the practice.

Following Wyden's statement, AT&T said it was also cutting off access to third-parties.

LocationSmart said in a statement Tuesday that it was reviewing the letters from the carriers, and denied that it buys and sells location data.

Verizon was the first major carrier to declare it would end sales of such data to brokers that then provide it to others. "We continue to review all customer use to ensure compliance with LocationSmart's terms of user requiring user consent". Securus users - typically law-enforcement and correctional facilities - were able to sidestep the usual court-authorized requirements on tracking customer locations.

As for T-Mobile and Sprint, things are still up in the air.

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