According to Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T, they are stepping up there efforts to crack down on the misuse of customer location data after an investigation this week disclosed that how easy it was for the third parties to track the locations of customers.
The announcements were the second promise from carriers in the past year to crack down on data access and came as lawmakers questioned carriers’ commitment to protecting sensitive information.
According to a story published in a Motherboard, they paid a bounty hunter about $300 to track the location of a cellphone, and for this purpose, they only provided a phone number.
The bounty hunter was successful in tracking the phone through data from a third-party aggregator called Zumigo. That company provided access from major phone carriers to a location-tracking service called Microbilt, which reportedly offered the service to several industries.
Motherboard described how the data is passed along a chain of private companies.
“In the case of the phone we tracked, six different entities had potential access to the phone’s data. T-Mobile shares location data with an aggregator called Zumigo, which shares information with MicroBilt. MicroBilt shared that data with a customer using its mobile phone tracking product. The bounty hunter then shared this information with a bail industry source, who shared it with Motherboard.”
After this story was published different lawmakers such as Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mark Warner (D-VA), took notice of this immediately and criticized the phone carriers for not taking enough measure for protecting their customers’ data.
T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere confirmed in a tweet that they are ending the location aggregator work.
“We’re doing it the right way to avoid impacting consumers who use these types of services for things like emergency assistance. It will end in March, as planned and promised.”
A spokesperson for AT&T said that:
“We are immediately eliminating the remaining services and will be done in March,”
And the spokesperson for Sprint said that:
“We took immediate action to ensure Microbilt no longer had access to Sprint location data, and have notified Zumigo that we are immediately terminating our contract”
Companies have made similar promises last year but let’s hope this time they will fulfill them.