Saturday, 22 September, 2018

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

Verizon, AT&T are cutting off location-data sharing contracts Verizon will stop selling customer location data to aggregators (updated)
Mandy Jefferson | 22 June, 2018, 16:43

In a letter that Wyden released Tuesday, Verizon said it found that Securus did "misuse" data gleaned from LocationSmart, one of two data aggregators with which it worked.

AT&T Inc and T-Mobile US Inc said in letters to Wyden that they have blocked the prison phone company from accessing customer data, but stopped short of saying they would stop selling the location data to others. Those types of services can include routing calls to the right facility, fraud prevention and vehicle tracking.

US Senator Ron Wyden penned a letter to various carriers to find out why these companies had unfettered access to customer location data in the first place. The nation's two largest carriers will continue to offer location data for services like roadside assistance and fraud prevention, but there won't be any shady third-parties managing access to that data. Representatives for AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile US didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on their plans. Sprint didn't share which firms it works with.

"Verizon did the responsible thing and promptly announced it was cutting these companies off", said Wyden in a statement Tuesday, following an investigation by his office.

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

Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have pledged to stop providing information on USA phone owners' locations to data brokers, stepping back from a business practice that has drawn criticism for endangering privacy. "We will not enter into new location aggregation arrangements unless and until we are comfortable that we can adequately protect our customers' location data through technological advancements and/or other practices".

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The FCC announced an investigation into the LocationSmart leak last month, in the wake of reports about the LocationSmart data leak.

Wyden asked the carriers to identify which third parties have been acquiring carrier location data and to provide details such as any third-party sharing of location data without customer consent. Shortly after that, T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeted that the wireless carrier won't sell customers' location information to "shady middlemen", though he didn't elaborate about which companies he was referring to.

Verizon said it would stop providing data to LocationSmart and Zumigo, which bills itself as " the only provider of mobile identity and location services across the globe". It will also refrain from signing new data-sharing contracts with third parties.

On its website, LocationSmart claims it is the No. 1 "location-as-a-service" provider with data from every top tier USA wireless carrier and more than 200 enterprise customers.

"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. Every so often that lack of oversight becomes painfully clear as we just saw with the Securus and Locationsmart scandal, which exposed the location data of roughly 200 million United States and Canadian wireless consumers.

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