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

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

The phone giants say it's "common" to share data, such as when motorists are stranded or as part of workforce and fleet tracking, but said that customer data should have more tightly controlled. That month, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, asking it to investigate the wireless carriers due to Securus' actions.

Verizon dug into the issue and reported back to Wyden this month that "despite the protections that Verizon built into its location aggregation arrangements, it appears that Securus and/or its affiliate 3C Interactive impermissibly permitted law enforcement agencies to request location information through LocationSmart for investigative purposes".

None of the four carriers responded to questions from the AP on whether they plan to sell location data directly instead of relying on the two California companies and, if so, how.

They failed to answer most of the questions Wyden had asked - most notably on the number of customers that had had their location data wrongly sold - and simply repeated the line that third parties are only allowed to access location data if users have given their consent. It notified Wyden's office late last week that it would stop selling data to LocationSmart and a similar firm called Zumigo. The carriers aren't opting out of completely ending the sale of customer location data, but it sounds like they are trimming the fat, at least.

"When these issues were brought to our attention, we took immediate steps to stop it. Customer privacy and security remain a top priority for our customers and our company", Verizon spokesman Rich Young said in a statement.

LocationSmart said in a statement Tuesday that it was reviewing the letters from the carriers, and denied that it buys and sells location data.

"Verizon did the responsible thing and promptly announced it was cutting these companies off", Wyden said in a statement.

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Krebs wrote that tracking firm LocationSmart leaked customer location data from all major US mobile carriers - AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon - without consent.

The other carriers did not immediately respond Tuesday to emailed requests for comment.

The three other main USA mobile operators that Wyden also contacted - AT&T, Spring and T-Mobile - also failed to name the companies that it sells such data to.

Sprint said later Tuesday that the company is "beginning the process of terminating its current contracts with data aggregators to whom we provide location data".

"AT&T has no reason to believe that there are other instances of unauthorized access to AT&T customer location data".

Aggregators typically work with third-party companies on things like verifying a user's identity or directing roadside assistance providers. "The company does not warehouse or track a mobile user's historic identity and location information", said the company. "We continue to review all customer use to ensure compliance with LocationSmart's terms of user requiring user consent". T-Mobile and Sprint haven't announced any policy changes at this time.

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