Economy

Congress asks FCC for emergency briefing on ending location data sales

Congress asks FCC for emergency briefing on ending location data sales

New reporting by Motherboard shows that while companies may have severed ties with LocationSmart, a lot of them overlooked the other big player in the location-tracking business, Zumigo. "I'll believe it when I see it", said US Senator Ron Wyden, who called on the FCC to investigate the issue a year ago.

When reached for comment, T-Mobile directed us to Legere's Twitter feed, where he wrote that the company has "blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo on behalf of Microbilt" and that the company is almost finished with the process of "terminating the agreements" it has with third-dfparty data aggregators.

On Thursday, AT&T said it was ending all its location-aggregator services, even those that are beneficial to consumers.

'In light of recent reports about the misuse of location services, we have chose to eliminate all location aggregation services-even those with clear consumer benefits, ' an AT&T spokesman told PCMag. He claimed to have promised to end the whole thing in March, though we have been unable to find any reference to March 2019 back in June 2018.

The sensitive data was available because AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint sell the information to third-party "location aggregators".

"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. The company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The report naturally caused concern amongst lawmakers and privacy advocates.

But, just as we warned at the time, it was all weasel words. "Congress needs to pass strong legislation to protect Americans' privacy and finally hold corporations accountable when they put your safety at risk by letting stalkers and criminals track your phone on the dark web".

"This is what happens when there are no financial penalties that are meaningful to the companies when they breach your data and destroy your privacy", said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.

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"I'm extraordinarily troubled by reports of this system of repackaging and reselling location data to unregulated third-party services for potentially nefarious purposes", Sen. On Twitter, Jessica Rosenworcel, a commissioner for the FCC, called for an investigation into the controversial practice to happen "stat" on January 8 on Twitter.

AT&T and T-Mobile say they'll stop handing over your cell phone location data to third parties after a report found the information could end up for sale on the black market.

"The FCC needs to investigate", Rosenworcel said Wednesday on MSNBC. They also need to educate users on their rights when it comes to data. On Friday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-NJ, asked the FCC to provide the committee's staff with an emergency briefing on the matter.

While there is money to be made and no law preventing it, it is a virtual certainty that AT&T and others will figure out a way to profit from selling their customers' private data.

In a report Tuesday, Motherboard reporter Joseph Cox described the process he had used to acquire the location data of a mobile phone from a source in the bail bond industry.

"The FCC must take immediate action to ensure no wireless carrier is allowing the rampant disclosure of real-time location data, and take enforcement action against carriers that violated the Commission's rules and the trust of their customers", Pallone said. He said Congress should advance his legislation that would grant the FTC greater authority to safeguard consumer data and fine companies for privacy and security violations.

"We take the privacy and security of our customers' information very seriously and will not tolerate any misuse of our customers' data", A T-Mobile spokesperson told Motherboard in an emailed statement.