Two days after Joseph Cox reported that the real-time location of virtually every phone in the United States could be bought with few restrictions, Hamza Shaban and Brian Fung are reporting for the Washington Post that three providers have said that they would stop selling customers’ location data to third parties:
AT&T had already suspended its data sharing agreements with a number of so-called “location aggregators” last year in light of a congressional probe finding that some of Verizon’s location data was being misused by prison officials to spy on innocent Americans. AT&T also said at the time it would be maintaining those of its agreements that provided clear consumer benefits, such as location sharing for roadside assistance services.
But AT&T’s announcement Thursday goes much further, pledging to terminate all of the remaining deals it had — even the ones that it said were actively helpful.
In characteristic fashion, T-Mobile chief executive John Legere tweeted Tuesday that his firm would be “completely ending location aggregator work” in March. Verizon said in a statement Thursday that it, too, was winding down its four remaining location-sharing agreements, which are all with roadside assistance services — after that, customers would have to give the company permission to share their data with roadside assistance firms. A Sprint spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Legere said last year that T-Mobile would “not sell customer location data to shady middlemen” and promised to “wind down” agreements to share location data. In communications to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, AT&T and Verizon also promised to stop selling location data last year. Without legislation and enforcement, I doubt shady practices like these will stop.