After it came out, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of OR sent a letter demanding that the FCC investigate why the third-party organization Securus Technologies was able to track any phone "within seconds" by using data obtained from cell phone companies, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, through an intermediary called LocationSmart. All that's required is some cash and the right contacts in a web of companies with access to the geolocation data collected by mobile phone companies.
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.
"At least one company, called Microbilt, is selling phone geolocation services with little oversight to a spread of different private industries, ranging from auto salesmen and property managers to bail bondsmen and bounty hunters, according to sources familiar with the company's products and company documents obtained by Motherboard", Cox wrote.
On Tuesday, Motherboard reported that it had paid a source in the bail industry $421 to track a T-Mobile phone and described in exhaustive detail how that location data was shared by T-Mobile with a series of middlemen until it wound up in the hands of-wait for it-a bounty hunter. "Every copy of data is a liability, and until those who collect or generate this data have better guiding principles and scrutiny, we must assume that our data and data about us is everywhere".
Your phone is essentially a tracker in your pocket, providing pinpoint accuracy on your whereabouts anywhere you take the device.More news: Predicted Barcelona XI vs Levante: Youngsters’ time to deliver
AT&T says it will no longer sell your location data to aggregation services.
The story follows reporting a year ago by the New York Times, which kicked off after Sen.
Today, Wyden said he's disappointed that carriers are apparently still selling location data to data brokers.
'Major carriers pledged to end these practices, but it appears to have been more empty promises to consumers, ' Wyden said in a statement.More news: Sanders Apologizes Amid New Allegation of Staff Harassment
AT&T told Ars that it has "shut down access for MicroBilt as we investigate these allegations". "Over the past few months, as we committed to do, we have been shutting down everything else".
AT&T's move follows similar actions by competitor T-Mobile. For its part, T-Mobile told Motherboard it "does not have a direct relationship" with Microbilt, but admitted one with Zumigo.
While they didn't test the other companies, Microbilt's product documentation suggested it would work on AT&T and Verizon as well as T-Mobile.
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.More news: Australian actor Craig McLachlan charged with sex offences