Verizon to end location data sales to brokers

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

Verizon, AT&T will suspend sales of customer location data, after a prison phone company was caught misusing it

In a small victory for your privacy, the nation's four largest telecom companies announced Tuesday that they will stop providing customer location information to companies that aggregate data on their customers.

The Verizon logo is seen on the side of a truck in New York City, U.S., October 13, 2016.

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.

In response, Verizon is cracking down on partners that enabled the abuse by ending its data-sharing agreements with two companies, LocationSmart and Zumigo, which specialize in processing location data from USA wireless carriers and letting corporate customers access it. Ron Wyden, a Democrat.

That security incidents involved a pair of companies, including LocationSmart, a California data broker that claims to have a "direct connection" into cell carrier networks, and Securus Technologies, a Texas-based "prison technology" company that works with LocationSmart.

"We believe that ending the ability of law enforcement to use these critical tools will hurt public safety and put Americans at risk", the spokesman said.

Verizon is pledging to stop selling data to outsiders through intermediaries that can pinpoint the location of mobile phones, the Associated Press has learned. It did so in a June 15 letter to Sen.

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

"In contrast, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint seem content to continuing to sell their customers' private information to these shady middle men, Americans' privacy be damned", he said.

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".

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's positive that the carriers have taken steps to halt the sharing of customers' location information with third party data brokers". "We continue to review all customer use to ensure compliance with LocationSmart's terms of user requiring user consent".

"I don't believe that there is anything consumers can do to opt-out of having their location data shared with third-parties like LocationSmart", said Stephanie Lacambra, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an email.

"Verizon deserves credit for taking quick action to protect its customers' privacy and security", Wyden said in a statement at the same time as he published the letters. Every so often that lack of oversight becomes painfully clear as we just saw with the Securus and Locationsmart scandal, which exposed the location data of roughly 200 million United States and Canadian wireless consumers.

Nor can the other carriers, she said. T-Mobile and Sprint haven't announced any policy changes at this time.

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