Major U.S. wireless providers recently told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that they have, for the most part, stopped selling real-time customer location data to third-parties. However, they all continued selling the data long after their scheduled cut-off dates.
On Thursday, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel issued a statement on an ongoing investigation into the sale of real-time geolocation data by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Rosenworcel called out both the carriers and the FCC for a lack of transparency on the matter, reports TechCrunch.
“The FCC has been totally silent about press reports that for a few hundred dollars shady middlemen can sell your location within a few hundred meters based on your wireless phone data,” she wrote. “That’s unacceptable.”
TechCrunch reports the big four carriers have only recently begun putting an end to this practice, despite promises that they would put an end to it during 2018.
While T-Mobile said it would put an end to the practice in the May/June 2018 timeframe, it actually ended it in March 2019.
AT&T pledged to end the practice in May/June 2018, it actually put a stop to it in March 2019.
Sprint had pledged a June 2018 termination date, but continues to sell the data to this day. The company says it will cease selling data to aggregators at the end of this month, but will continue to share the geolocation data with a breakdown service and a lottery compliance firm.
Verizon stopped selling the information to aggregators in November 2018, but continued sharing the info with a roadside assistance service until March 2019.
Each of the big four wireless providers attempted to push their geolocation information vending as benefits to their customers. However, no information has been made available as to how the location data was managed and protected after it was sold to the third-parties. No matter how you look at it, the sale of the data without the explicit approval of customers is a less than reassuring matter.