Congress asks FCC for emergency briefing on ending location data sales

All you need to track any phone’s location is a small bribe

T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are reportedly among the companies whose data is being used to track phone locations, leaving mobile network users exposed without their knowledge.

"Wireless carriers are promising, yet again, to stop sharing Americans' location data without their consent".

"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 stated this week. "It will end in March", Legere added. 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.

"We have previously stated that we are terminating the agreements we have with third-party data aggregators and we are almost finished with that process", a T-Mobile spokesperson told Ars this week.

But nobody quite dropped the ball like the carriers, which said they would not to share location data again. Legere tweeted this week: "T-Mobile is completely ending location aggregator work". The firm said it was looking into the situation and had stopped transmitting data to an aggregator while it investigated. Don't Miss: Amazon's best-selling Bluetooth earbuds hit a new all-time low of $15.99 with this exclusive coupon Addressing the issue head on, a Sprint spokesperson told The Verge that they company will no longer "knowingly share personally identifiable geo-location information" but for requests from legal authorities. However, the details were identical: it was an approved third party that purchased subscribers' location records from a carrier, and through a chain of organizations, sold that private location data to pretty much anyone willing to pay it: from vehicle salespeople, stalkers, and property managers to criminals, bounty hunters, and private investigators, potentially.

"It turns out that they're selling that information to companies called location aggregators who in turn are selling that to shady middlemen who for a few hundred dollars will sell to anyone, your location within a few hundred meters".

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Following the revelation this month that nothing has changed, Senator Wyden has again called for an FCC investigation, and again argued for a privacy law that would protect United States citizens from having their personal data sold without their permission. The spokesperson said everything will be finalized in March. "That's not right. This entire ecosystem needs oversight".

The FCC did not immediately respond to requests for comment; the agency's operations are limited because of the ongoing government shutdown.

Pallone said the emergency FCC briefing should be held on Monday - regardless of whether or not the federal government is still shut down. "We have followed through on our commitment to terminate aggregation arrangements and provide location information only with the express consent of our customers". "Major carriers pledged to end these practices, but it appears to have been more empty promises to consumers", Wyden said on Twitter.

"Protecting our customers' privacy and security is a top priority, and we are transparent about that in our Privacy Policy". "To be transparent, we have maintained the prior arrangements for four roadside assistance companies during the winter months for public safety reasons but they have agreed to transition out of the existing arrangements by the end of the March".

According to Cox, the source claimed to have received the data from a firm called Microbit.

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