AT&T, T-Mobile And Verizon Vow To Stop Selling Location Data

Faced with a new privacy debacle, AT&T says it will stop selling data about wireless users' locations.

"In light of recent reports about the misuse of location services, we have decided to eliminate all location aggregation services -- even those with clear consumer benefits,” an AT&T spokesman stated this week. The company expects to end the data sales by March.

The spokesman added that the company previously stopped "most" location aggregation services, but maintained "some that protect our customers, such as roadside assistance and fraud prevention."

T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who previously vowed to stop selling location data, reiterated this week that the company will do so by March. “We’re shutting it down one by one, making sure consumers who use this for things like health and safety services have a chance to make other arrangements,” he tweeted.

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Verizon also reportedly said it will stop sharing users' locations; the company currently has agreements with roadside assistance services.

The moves came just days after Motherboard reported that AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are selling customers' location data to third parties. Motherboard detailed how it paid a “bounty hunter” $300 to track a phone's location to neighborhood in Queens, New York. 

The carrier for that phone was T-Mobile, which shared the location data with the aggregator Zumigo, which in turn shared the data with Microbilt. Microbilt then shared the information with a bounty hunter, who shared it with a bail industry source, according to Motherboard.

The report prompted new calls for federal privacy legislation, as well as for an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission.

In 2016, the FCC passed a set of broadband privacy regulations that would have prohibited carriers from sharing a host of data about customers without their explicit consent. Those rules were revoked by Congress in 2017.

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