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All you need to track any phone’s location is a small bribe
13 January 2019, 05:27 | Austin Hogan
EnlargeGetty Images | skaman306
After it came out, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of OR sent a letter demanding that the FCC investigate why the third-party organization Securus Technologies was able to track any phone "within seconds" by using data obtained from cell phone companies, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, through an intermediary calledLocationSmart.
"In light of recent reports about the misuse of location services, we have made a decision to eliminate all location aggregation services-even those with clear consumer benefits", AT&T said in a statement, according to the Daily Inquirer.
The investigation concluded that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint all sell customer location data in the unregulated black market via data brokers.
"Last year we stopped most location aggregation services while maintaining some that protect our customers, such as roadside assistance and fraud prevention", AT&T said in a statement to CNET. Legere tweeted this week: "T-Mobile is completely ending location aggregator work". "We're doing this right and shutting them down one by one, so customers who use this for safety services can make other arrangements", he added. In June, they vowed to scale back their location sharing partnerships after a prison technology company was found abusing the data for warrantless cell phone location lookups. The FTC could also probably ding T-Mobile for being "unfair and deceptive" under Section 5 of the FTC act, yet has been similarly mute as carriers bullshit their way around their failures on this front.
This led to several lawmakers calling for an investigation into the practice of data sharing.
Earlier this week, after U.S. wireless carriers were put on blast for selling their users' location data without consent, the industry promptly promised to bring the practice to an end.
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And T-Mobile US's Legere told Senator Wyden to his face that he would end the practice of selling location data through third parties. Verizon also said it terminated its relationship with Zumigo, a data aggregator named in the Motherboard report.
Motherboard's story earlier this week highlighted how customer location data can end up in the wrong hands. However, we've now learned that a different "Securus" - MicroBilt - has been selling phone geolocation services with little oversight to a spread of different private industries. "Stat", Federal Communications Commission member Jessica Rosenworcel wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
When asked what the agency could do to impose financial or criminal penalties, Rosenworcel explained that the FCC has the authority to look at customer proprietary network information and location information.
Motherboard first reported how bounty hunters were selling access to the real-time information for only a few hundred dollars.
It was just a year ago when Senator Ron Wyden wrote to the Federal Communications Commission about Securus, a firm that that was offering geolocation of phones to low-level law enforcement without a warrant, thereby jeopardizing cell phone locations of not only inmates, but anyone with a phone number - which is pretty much everyone. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., about Vice's report. It would at least allow the Commission to investigate the matter with MicroBilt, but with the current government shutdown, unfortunately there is not much that can be done at the very moment - and there's no guarantee this FCC would do that anyway.
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