Last year, four of the largest U.S. cell carriers were caught selling and sending real-time location data of their customers to shady companies that sold it on to big spenders, who would use the data to track anyone “within seconds” for whatever reason they wanted.
At first, a little-known company LocationSmart was obtaining (and leaking) real-time location data from ATT, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint and selling access through another company, 3Cinteractive, to Securus, a prison technology company, which tracked phone owners without asking for their permission.
A payment of $300 and a phone number was enough for a bounty hunter to track down the participating reporter by obtaining his location using Zumigo’s location data, which was continuing to pay for access from most of the carriers.
T-Mobile, at the center of the latest location-selling revelations for passing the reporter’s location to the bounty hunter, said last year in the midst of the Securus scandal that it “reviewed” its real-time location data sharing program and found that appropriate controls in place.
This time around, T-Mobile said it “does not have a direct relationship” with Microbilt but admitted one with Zumigo, which, given the story and the similarities to last year’s Securus scandal, could be considered one of many “shady middlemen” still obtaining location data from cell carriers.
ATT said in last year’s letter it would “protect customer data” and “shut down” Securus’ access to its real-time store of customer location data.
Yet Sprint, like its fellow carriers ATT and T-Mobile, which pledged to stop selling location data, clearly didn’t complete its “process of terminating its current contracts with data aggregators to whom we provide location data” as it promised in a letter a year ago.
In a letter sent last year when the Securus scandal blew up, Verizon said it would “take steps to stop” sharing data with two firms — Zumigo, and LocationSmart, an intermediary that passed on obtained location data to Securus.
Done Katch’ng up but want to read more? Read more here.