In the wake of a bombshell report detailing how carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile sell real-time location data of subscribers to third-parties, both of the aforementioned carriers have since come out and said that they will stop the practice immediately. While it’s long been known that carriers sell location data to certain third-parties for ostensibly reasonable purposes, the practice has become problematic because the data ultimately winds up in the wrong hands.
As an illustrative example, Joseph Cox of Motherboard managed to track down the real-time location of his friend (who was a willing participant in the experiment) for just $300. The report naturally caused concern amongst lawmakers and privacy advocates.
Addressing the issue head on, a Sprint spokesperson told The Verge that they company will no longer “knowingly share personally identifiable geo-location information” but for requests from legal authorities.
“We took immediate action to ensure Microbilt no longer had access to Sprint location data,” the spokesperson added, “and have notified Zumigo that we are immediately terminating our contract.”
T-Mobile had a similar response:
A T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed to The Verge that the company has “blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo on behalf of Microbilt,” and said it was in the process of ending providing access to third-party data aggregators more broadly. The phone described in the Motherboard story was tied to the carrier.
In a tweet on the matter, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said: “T-Mobile IS completely ending 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.”
For what it’s worth, Legere this past summer said that T-Mobile would stop selling “customer location data to shady middlemen.”