U.S. carriers are no longer sharing customer location data

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Significant Locations
Your location data is no longer up for grabs.
Photo: Cult of Mac

U.S. carriers have (mostly) put an end to the practice of selling customer location data to third-parties, a new report reveals.

This dodgy practice was previously carried out by giants including T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. They passed on this data to middlemen, which then sold the information to other companies without getting the necessary permission from users.

According to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, there has been far too little transparency about the situation. That includes from her own FCC.

“The FCC has been totally silent about press reports that for a few hundred dollars shady middlemen can sell your location within a few hundred meters based on your wireless phone data,” she wrote. Fortunately, she has published letters from the major carriers, showing that they have acted.

Setting the record straight

T-Mobile has promised that his company, “will not sell customer location data to shady middlemen.” AT&T, meanwhile, has stopped sharing “any AT&T customer location data with location aggregators and LBS providers.” This came into action at the end of March. Sprint, for its part, says that it will no longer contract with any location aggregators to provide location-based services to customers. While it may provide location data to customers such as roadside assistance companies, there are no “firm plans” to do this right now. Finally, Verizon has ended its contracts with third-party data sellers.

As TechCrunch notes:

“It’s taken some time, but the carriers seem to have finally followed through on shutting down the programs through which they resold customer location data. All took care to mention at some point the practical and helpful use cases of such programs, but failed to detail the apparent lack of oversight with which they were conducted.”

Unfortunately, it’s no big surprise to hear that giant companies look for ways to monetize user data. Location data has plenty of positive, useful applications. But it’s crucial to be transparent about how this data is being shared and used.