AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon announced they will stop selling their customers’ location information to third parties following a security problem that shares users’ real-time location without their consent.
“Our top priority is to protect our customers’ information, and, to that end, we will be ending our work with aggregators for these services as soon as practical in a way that preserves important, potential lifesaving services like emergency roadside assistance,” AT&T said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon pressed the telecommunications giants to increase user privacy in an open letter on May 8 after he discovered a prison phone company, Securus Technologies, had access to the telecommunication companies’ customers locations and let law enforcement use it.
“We believe that ending the ability of law enforcement to use these critical tools will hurt public safety and put Americans at risk,” a Securus spokesman said, Reuters reported.
AT&T claims that it required Securus to receive consent from its customers.
“We now understand that, despite AT&T’s requirements to obtain customer consent, Securus did not in fact obtain customer consent before collecting customers’ location information for its On-Demand Service,” the company wrote. “Instead, Securus evidently relied upon law enforcement’s representation that it had appropriate legal authority to obtain customer location data, such as a warrant, court order, or other authorizing document as a proxy for customer consent.”
Sprint told Wyden it began investigating Securus and that it “suspended the provision of location data to Securus, and our investigation continues.” (RELATED: With Net Neutrality Repealed, Comcast Says It Stopped Throttling Heavy Internet Users)
Wyden praised Verizon for “taking quick action to protect its customers’ privacy and security,” he said in a statement. Wyden added, “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.”
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