Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Verizon, AT&T to end location data sales to brokers

Verizon, AT&T are cutting off location-data sharing contracts Verizon will stop selling customer location data to aggregators (updated)
Troy Mann | 22 June, 2018, 16:42

Securus purchased location information which had been sold by the data broker LocationSmart.

The data has apparently allowed outside companies to pinpoint the location of wireless devices without their owners' knowledge or consent.

The company said it disabled Securus' access to location data in the wake of Wyden's report, and that "use of location information for investigative purposes was not an approved use case in our agreement with LocationSmart".

In a statement, LocationSmart said it respects user privacy, doesn't provide access to location information without user consent and doesn't warehouse data or track user location histories. 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.

"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 said of the decision in a company statement. Wyden that it "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 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. For instance, a Missouri sheriff used the tracking service to target a judge and other law-enforcement officers, according to a New York Times story. Ron Wyden, a Democrat.

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None of the carriers said they are getting out of the business of selling location data.

If that response from Verizon is far from satisfying, the letters from AT&T, Spring and T-Mobile to Senator Wyden are worse.

Verizon says it has been supplying the customer data to about 75 third parties via two California-based brokers and will halt that arrangement as soon as possible.

"Chairman Pai's total abandonment of his responsibility to protect Americans' security shows that he can't be trusted to oversee an investigation into the shady companies that he used to represent", Wyden said in a statement Tuesday.

Securus didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wyden's May 8 letter also called on wireless carriers to investigate the issue after his own investigation revealed questionable data handling practices by a company called Securus Technologies. It said it would not authorize any "new uses" of the data while that "transition" went ahead. Following Wyden's letter, security researcher Brian Krebs revealed that LocationSmart was leaking the real-time data "to anyone via a buggy component of its Web site - without the need for any password or other form of authentication or authorization". T-Mobile and Sprint haven't announced any policy changes at this time.

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