A hot potato: I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: you can’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy when you’re carrying around a tracking device (a smartphone) 24/7. Someone, somewhere is always going to have the ability to spy on you. Unfortunately, it’s simply the price paid for the convenience afforded.
A damning report from Motherboard earlier this week regarding the misappropriation of cell phone customers’ location data has prompted a swift response from wireless carriers.
An AT&T spokesperson told The Washington Post that in light of the report, they are immediately eliminating all dealings with location aggregation services – even ones with clear consumer benefits. The spokesperson said everything will be finalized in March.
I keep my word, @RonWyden. 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.
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) January 9, 2019
T-Mobile CEO John Legere issued a similar statement on Twitter, vowing to end its work with location aggregators in March as previously promised. Verizon told The Washington Post on Thursday that it, too, is ending its remaining location-sharing agreements. A spokesperson for Sprint told CNET that it has ended its relationship with companies that abuse location data but still provides location data when customers give their consent.
All four major US carriers vowed to stop selling customer location data to third-parties last June in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Motherboard’s story earlier this week highlighted how customer location data can end up in the wrong hands. Even if carriers sell the data to legitimate companies for beneficial reasons such as roadside assistance, it only takes a few degrees of separation (the roadside assistance company sells it to someone else, and so on) for the data to end up in the wrong hands.
In Motherboard’s case, they were able to pay a source $300 to get a device’s location data that was accurate within a few hundred meters.
Lead image courtesy RikoBest via Shutterstock