Smartphone users, we have both good and bad news for you. The bad news is– your wireless carrier may be selling your location data to third parties. The good news is, the big four wireless networks have confirmed they will no longer be selling this information.
The confirmation follows reports of third-party companies that have been leaking or selling this real-time location data of just about every U.S. citizen with a smartphone. And to no surprise, this data has been misused by several entities. Brian Krebs, a security researcher, discovered that at least one data firm was freely giving access to the location data of any cell number. Krebs also found a tool on LocationSmart’s website, which offered mobile location technology to customers. The website contained a bug that allowed anyone to track a cell number from a US carrier without the need of getting consent from the cellphone user, which it was supposed to do from the start.
In the wake of the scandal, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon have all confirmed that they have ended location-sharing programs. In doing so, they hope that anonymous companies and strangers will no longer be able to keep track of the location of their users.
In a statement, a representative for AT&T shared that protecting customer information is the “top priority” of the company. And with the issues going around, the wireless provider has ended contracts “with aggregators for these services as soon as practical in a way that preserves important, potential lifesaving services like emergency roadside assistance.”
Sprint also spoke to BGR and shared that they have started to terminate “current contracts with data aggregators to whom we provide location data.” The wireless provider, however, shared that “this will take some time in order to unwind services to consumers, such as roadside assistance and fraud prevention services.”
The company has gone the extra mile by suspending all data sharing with LocationSmart since last month. With its promise, Sprint hopes that instances of unauthorized location data sharing will be prevented and stopped.
Verizon also assured its customers that they were doing the necessary actions to terminate third-parties from gaining access to customer location data. In a letter sent to Senator Ron Wyden, Verizon declared that it would put a stop to selling this data to brokers who provide it to others. The Senator, a Democrat from Oregon, has been keen on probing the phone location-tracking market.
T-Mobile, on the other hand, did not directly address the issue. They also sent a letter to the Senator with a note that this “requires internal approval of every service provider and use, including the mechanism by which the service provider will obtain customer consent before any location information is shared with partners and service providers.”
The Senator sent out a tweet earlier today confirming that both Verizon and AT&T have pledged to stop selling Americans’ location data to shady middlemen. John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, did not take long to respond to this tweet by saying that he “personally evaluated this issue and have pledged that T-Mobile will not sell customer location data to shady middlemen.” The executive praised the Senator’s advocacy and reiterated that they are committed to upholding their customers’ privacy.
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js It’s important to see that the top wireless carriers in the country are taking a stand and are doing their best to protect their customers’ information. Hopefully, they will be able to keep their commitment long-term.