Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: On Tuesday, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint said they'd stop working with two data brokers, LocationSmart and Zumigo.
The Verizon logo is seen on the side of a truck in New York City, U.S., October 13, 2016. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been probing the phone location-tracking market. AT&T and Verizon now say they will stop selling data to these third-party brokers.
As Verizon prepares to end its contracts with location aggregators, it said it will not start any new agreements until it feels "comfortable that we can adequately protect our customers' location data", discussing the benefits providing location data can provide if it's not being abused.
T-Mobile didn't address issues with third-party data brokers more generally, but said in a recent letter to Sen.
Shares of Verizon were up 2.2 percent at $48.49 in afternoon trading.
The FCC announced an investigation into the LocationSmart leak last month, in the wake of reports about the LocationSmart data leak. And as the Location Smart and Securus scandal proved, that data isn't always all that anonymous, and can routinely be abused. "In contrast, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint seem content to keep selling their customers' private information to these shady middle men, Americans' privacy be damned".
The CEO of Zumigo, Chirag Bakshi, said his 7-year-old company provides location data to less than a half dozen big banks and financial institutions for fraud prevention.
They failed to answer most of the questions Wyden had asked - most notably on the number of customers that had had their location data wrongly sold - and simply repeated the line that third parties are only allowed to access location data if users have given their consent.
"I don't believe that there is anything consumers can do to opt-out of having their location data shared with third-parties like LocationSmart", said Stephanie Lacambra, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an email.
"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", AT&T said. "Nonetheless, we are reviewing these issues carefully to ensure the proper handling of all AT&T customer information".
"Verizon did the responsible thing and promptly announced it was cutting these companies off", Wyden said in a statement of his own.
The carriers partnered with LocationSmart, which claimed it had "direct connections" to the cell giants' cache of location data. Every so often that lack of oversight becomes painfully clear as we just saw with the Securus and Locationsmart scandal, which exposed the location data of roughly 200 million United States and Canadian wireless consumers.
Nevertheless, the carriers say ending the data sharing will take time.
Verizon was the first major carrier to declare it would end sales of such data to brokers that then provide it to others.
As for T-Mobile and Sprint, things are still up in the air.