AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint seek to make amends over location breach

A person's hand holding a smartphone that is displaying a map

There are calls on Capitol Hill for an investigation into the sale of cellphone data.

Faced with a new privacy debacle, AT&T says it will stop selling data about wireless users' locations. That's how Motherboard was able to obtain the location of the phone it wanted tracked. "I think that is a problem", Rosenworcel said.

"Billions of devices are having their location data leaked by ad servers every day", the executive said. Ron Wyden of Oregon. "It's time for some sunshine on this shadowy network of information sharing", he wrote in a statement after releasing the draft legislation in November 2018. While it's always been known that carriers sell location data to certain third-parties for ostensibly reasonable purposes, the practice has become problematic because the data ultimately winds up in the wrong hands. "It's a pattern. You know, they do it, they get caught, they apologize and its kind of wash rinse and repeat", Wyden said. On Thursday, AT&T and T-Mobile said they would end sales of location data by March, and Verizon said it was phasing out its last four partnerships. "Armed with just a phone number, Microbilt's "Mobile Device Verify" product can return a target's full name and address, geolocate a phone in an individual instance, or operate as a continuous tracking service". While T-Mobile does not have a direct relationship with Microbilt, our vendor Zumigo was working with them and has confirmed with us that they have already shut down all transmission of T-Mobile data.

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". 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. "We have followed through on our commitment to terminate aggregation arrangements and provide location information only with the express consent of our customers".

"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 provided to Ars today.

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"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", an AT&T spokesman told PCMag. 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.

"Protecting our customers' privacy and security is a top priority, and we are transparent about that in our Privacy Policy".

Two things gave AT&T the incentive to once again tell consumers that it would not sell real-time location data to third party outfits.

The U.S. wireless industry has been caught in a fresh scandal amid a new report that detailed how three of the nation's largest carriers have continued the practice of selling personal location data of their customers to third parties.

Added Harris: "The FCC needs to immediately investigate these serious security concerns and take the necessary steps to protect the privacy of American consumers".

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