Verizon and AT&T decide to stop selling your location to third parties

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The background: In May, The New York Times reported that Securus Technologies, a prison call-monitoring company, offered a service that law-enforcement officials could use to track people's locations via their cellphones, without having a court order.

LocationSmart pushed back against Wyden's characterization, insisting in a statement that it "does not buy or sell location information, nor does it permit the sharing of location information about any mobile device without a user's consent".

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) welcomed Verizon's move to end its agreements with data aggregators, including LocationSmart, which sold location data to a prison tech company that claimed to be able to track any cell phone in the USA "within seconds". After some back and forth and a little public shaming courtesy of a United States senator, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile pledged to do the same.

In May, Wyden asked the FCC to investigate the "abusive and potentially unlawful practices" of cell phone companies selling access to customers' real-time location.

On Tuesday, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said on Twitter that it too had ended partnerships with data aggregators.

In a letter that Wyden released Tuesday, Verizon said it found that Securus did "misuse" data gleaned from LocationSmart, one of two data aggregators with which it worked.

Verizon was the first major carrier to declare it would end sales of such data to brokers that then provide it to others.

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Verizon also indicated it would not authorize any new uses of location data, but added it would work to maintain "beneficial services" from location data, such as fraud protection.

Privacy advocates called the carriers' decision a small victory, but called for further safeguards on consumer data. Wyden said the company was not properly vetting law enforcement requests for location data provided by national wireless providers.

"While we continue to review the facts and determine next steps, as of May 25th we have suspended all services with LocationSmart", Belot said. LocationSmart provides data only at the instant it is requested by a service like roadside assistance and user consent has been obtained.

"Verizon deserves credit for taking quick action to protect its customers' privacy and security", Wyden said in a statement on Tuesday. "After my investigation and follow-up reports revealed that middlemen are selling Americans' location to the highest bidder without their consent, or making it available on insecure web portals, Verizon did the responsible thing and promptly announced it was cutting these companies off". "In contrast, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint seem content to continuing to sell their customers' private information to these shady middle men, Americans' privacy be damned".

Adding to the fun, following pressure from Wyden, the FCC made a decision to open an investigation into the unauthorized use of location data.

Wyden didn't mince words over the controversial FCC chief. His office shared the companies' responses with The AP. But in the wrong hands, they can allow a hacker to secretly track your location.

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