Wireless carriers caught red-handed selling customers’ location data

Wireless companies are selling their customers’ location data to third-parties, a recent investigation by Motherboard found. The reporter discovered this after a bounty hunter located his phone after receiving the T-Mobile phone number. Traditionally, a customer’s location data was only shared with their consent or during emergency situations, such as roadside assistance. However, wireless companies, including T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T, are now providing such information without a warrant or disclosure to their customers.

“It’s part of a bigger problem; the US has a completely unregulated data ecosystem,” said Frederike Kaltheuner, data exploitation programme lead at Privacy International.

Motherboard reports that wireless companies sell location data to aggregator companies. These aggregators then resell the information to third parties that in turn sell them to bail bondsmen, landlords, credit check companies, and other entities. All four wireless companies pledged to stop the sale of their customers’ location information in 2018.

Several members of Congress have called on the FCC to investigate carriers’ sale of customers’ location data.

Links:

I gave a bounty hunter $300. Then he located our phone (Motherboard, Jan. 8, 2019)

Verizon and AT&T will stop selling your phone’s location to data brokers (Ars Technica, Jun. 19, 2018)

Senators Call on FCC To Investigate T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint Selling Location Data to Bounty Hunters (Motherboard, Jan. 9, 2019)