A new report suggests that three of the US’ big four telcos are still selling customer data to location aggregators for huge profits with ‘little oversight’
T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T have been accused of selling access to their customers’ location data, months after the three US telcos vowed to stop the practice.
A new report published by Motherboard claims that for $300 it was able to pay a bounty hunter to track the location of a T-Mobile customer, using real time geolocation data purchased from the US cellco.
"The bounty hunter did this all without deploying a hacking tool or having any previous knowledge of the phone’s whereabouts. Instead, the tracking tool relies on real-time location data sold to bounty hunters that ultimately originated from the telcos themselves, including T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint, a Motherboard investigation has found. These surveillance capabilities are sometimes sold through word-of-mouth networks," the Motherboard report said.
US telcos have routinely sold their customers’ location data to third party companies, known as location aggregators. This data can be purchased by legitimate clients, for example road side assistance firms who use it to pinpoint the location of a broken-down vehicle, however, more often than not, the data is being purchased for more nefarious purposes.
"Companies are selling phone geolocation services with little oversight to a spread of different private industries, ranging from car salesmen and property managers to bail bondsmen and bounty hunters," the Motherboard report found.
T-Mobile’s CEO, John Legere, took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to say that his company was committed to eradicating the sale of its customers’ geolocation data.
"T-Mobile IS completely ending location aggregator work. We’re doing it the right way to avoid impacting consumers who use these types of services for things like emergency assistance. It will end in March, as planned and promised," he said.
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