AT&T Seeks Dismissal Of Location Privacy Lawsuit

Wireless customers aren't entitled to a court order that would prohibit AT&T from sharing their location data, because the practice has been discontinued, the carrier argues in new court papers.

“As of March 29, 2019 -- almost four months before plaintiffs commenced this action -- AT&T no longer provided geolocation information to any data aggregators, the very action that plaintiffs filed this lawsuit to stop,” AT&T writes in papers filed Wednesday with U.S. District Magistrate Sallie Kim, in the Northern District of California.

AT&T's court papers come in response to a lawsuit brought in July by the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of three California residents -- Katherine Scott, Carolyn Jewel and George Pontis.

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They alleged that AT&T was violating the privacy provisions of the Federal Communications Act by disclosing subscribers' location data, and sought an injunction against the company. The suit came several months after the publication Motherboard.

reported that the major carriers were selling customers' location data to third parties. Motherboard's article detailed how a journalist paid a “bounty hunter” $300 to track a phone's location to a neighborhood in Queens, New York.

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

Last year, it also emerged that an aggregator was selling location data obtained from carriers to law enforcement authorities who lacked warrants.

The four major U.S. carriers have said they no longer sell location data.

AT&T argues in its new court papers that Scott and the others can't show an imminent threat of injury, given that AT&T isn't currently selling the data.

“Even if AT&T had improperly shared plaintiffs’ geolocation information or misrepresented its then-current information-sharing practices -- and it did not -- plaintiffs cannot meet their burden to prove that there is now a 'real or immediate threat,'” the company writes.

In September, AT&T argued in separate papers that the lawsuit should be sent to arbitration because its wireless service contracts provide for arbitration of all disputes.

The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs, countered that courts in California don't don't enforce arbitration agreements when consumers seek an injunction that could benefit other members of the public.

The judge hasn't yet ruled on whether the arbitration agreement applies to the claims in this lawsuit.

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