US Telecom Companies Sell Location Data to Third-Parties

In News, Technology
US Telecom Companies

Leading US telecom companies are indeed selling the location data of their customers to third-parties and for a fact that even themselves do not know where the customer data will be heading or how many times it will be sold to others.

A report revealed that this unethical practice of US telecom companies prompts the US Senators to request the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate the alleged companies. Senators Kamala Harris, Ron Wyden, and Mark Warner are surfacing against the accused US telecom companies like AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile that sell their customer’s location data.

Senator Kamala Harris said, “The American people have an absolute right to the privacy of their data, which is why I’m extraordinarily troubled by reports of this system of repackaging and reselling location data to unregulated third-party services for potentially nefarious purposes. If true, this practice represents a legitimate threat to our personal and national security.”

Motherboard conducted an independent investigation by buying a device’s real-time location from a security industry source for $300, identifying it to a particular section of Queens, New York. The purchased phone was from T-Mobile network and that’s where the customer location data will come from and then sold to a chain of companies and resellers.

The information was first sold to a so-called ‘location aggregator’ company, Zumigo which provided the phone location services to the bail industry. Afterward, the information was sold to a source and then sent it to Motherboard by the firm Microbilt, that geolocated the cell phone for a bail bondsman.

The cell phone’s location was submitted in a Google Maps interface with a certainty of around 500 meters. The device obtained no notification, like a text message, as a warning that it was being monitored.

This is only an indication that consumer location data are clearly sold to the unregulated market bought by bail enforcement agencies as well as unauthorized people to carry out such information. Where has the data and security protection of consumer gone?

Because of the alarming incident, US lawmakers are compelling Ajit Pai and his federal agency to probe on it and take on some measures that would curtail the illegitimate use and marketing of device location data.

Senator Ron Wyden lately recommended a measure intended to protect personal data. According to him, the telecom industry once again failed to safeguard the information of American people.

He added that Congress must interfere and pronounce robust privacy legislation, like his bill, to protect consumer data and hold firms responsible if they fail. The said bill will enforce penalties as well as criminal charges on executives intentionally deceived federal regulators regarding data-management procedures.

Hundreds of millions of US major telecom cell phone users are possibly affected by the matter who likely have no idea that their location data have already been compromised and resold multiple times without knowing for whatever purpose.

Guilty as charged, Sprint and T-Mobile made new promises not to sell their customers’ location data to third-parties this time for real. AT&T, on the other hand, also pledged to cease from selling their own customers’ location data to aggregate services.


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