Carriers Swore They'd Stop Selling Location Data. Will They Ever?

WIRED | 1/10/2019 | Lily Hay Newman
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Location data is some of the most sensitive, and sought after, information that smartphones generate. And wireless providers are in a unique position to access it all the time. But a Tuesday report from Motherboard shows that carriers don't protect this deeply private information as carefully as consumers might think—especially considering that Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T all pledged to stop selling it months ago.

Last May, US carriers were caught selling customer location data to all manner of third parties, from legitimate services like roadside assistance groups to data brokers who could resell the information to virtually anyone. It exposed a shadow economy, where your location information ends up in the hands of countless companies you've never heard of.

Customer - Outrage - Scrutiny - US - Carriers

Amid the ensuing customer outrage and mounting congressional scrutiny, the major US carriers promised to stop selling user location data to outside brokers. Which is part of what makes the Motherboard story so troubling: Seven months later, it remains easy and cheap for anyone to buy data about a phone's location without a warrant or any justification at all. All you need is a phone number to target. In Motherboard's case it was a T-Mobile customer, but data brokers claim to be able to provide location information from all the major carriers.

The carriers said specifically they would stop selling customer location data to third parties. They haven't.

Carrier - Position - Relationships - Brokers - Customer

So what gives? The carrier position seems to be that they are actively scaling back their relationships with third-party brokers, but that there is also real customer benefit from the services fueled by user data. "We take the privacy and security of our customers’ information very seriously and will not tolerate any misuse of our customers’ data," T-Mobile said in a statement. "We have previously stated that we are terminating the agreements we have with third-party...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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