Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T seek to make amends after location-tracking scandal

Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T have promised to make amends after a location tracking incident took place. The US carriers have all released statements saying they’ll take steps to clamp down on the illegal distribution of user location data. An investigation conducted, discovered how easy it was for third parties to get location information of users. This fresh scandal which hit the US wireless carrier came amid a report by Motherboard, which documented how these carriers have been selling users’ data to third parties.

Motherboard’s hired bounty hunter investigations

In particular, AT$T, T-Mobile, and Sprint were caught by a paid bounty hunter to be selling user data; seven months, after the same carriers had promised to stop the horrendous act. Their newest announcements were the second promise in a span of a year.

According to Motherboard, they had hired a bounty hunter for $300 to conduct an investigation into the carriers, on whether they still sold user data to third parties; and the results were shocking. The bounty hunter, whose identity is anonymous, did manage to track a cellphone number through a third party – Zumigo. The company issued him with access to data from all the US wireless carriers, as well as a tracking service called Microbilt; it is alleged to have tracked for several industries.

Moments after the news outlet had published their findings, several US lawmakers, including Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mark Warner (D-VA), took it out on the wireless carriers for their misdeeds. Moreover, FCC’s commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel in her tweet, she called on the agency to investigate the incident.

Sprint’s defense stand-point

Sprint, in their statement to one of the news outlets, they stood ground saying,

“it won’t knowingly share personally identifiable geo-location information,”

unless with legal notice. They also maintained that they have never shared data with the likes of Zumigo and Microbilt knowingly; accusing the third parties of violating the carrier’s privacy laws. Sprint also promised that they had taken immediate countermeasures to ensure these third parties had no access to user data.

AT&T’s defense stand-point

AT&T, through their spokesperson also confirmed that the company has taken action to

“blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo on behalf of Microbilt.”

The spokesperson, also confirmed that the wireless carrier was laying plans to stop giving access to third-party information collectors generally. Needless to say, the phone used by the bounty hunter hired by Motherboard, was tied to AT&T.

T-Mobile’s defense stand-point

T-Mobile also came forward to admit their illegal misdeed and promised to do their best to stop selling user information to irresponsible third parties. John Legere, T-Mobile’s CEO posted on his Twitter account saying,

“T-Mobile IS completely ending location aggregator work.”

Sen triggered his tweet. Roy Wyden who had earlier on warned the carriers of the illegal activities. To further assure the US senator from Oregon, John wrote,

“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.”

Wrap up

All these US industrial carriers had sworn to stop partnering with their third parties, long before the incident happened. Sen addressed the different letters. Ron Wyden (D-OR), claimed that the carriers had stopped all location-sharing agreements with data collectors like Zumigo. However, they seemed to have lied, and are still selling user information.

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