Carriers Again Pledge to End Location Aggregation Contracts

AT&T, Inc., said today that it has decided to discontinue the use of all location aggregation services in the wake of a report that said the carrier is one of several that is selling access to customer data that is being obtained by third parties such as bounty hunters.

“Last year we stopped most location aggregation services while maintaining some that protect our customers, such as roadside assistance and fraud prevention,” said an AT&T spokesperson. “In light of recent reports about the misuse of location services, we have decided to eliminate all location aggregation services – even those with clear consumer benefits.  We are immediately eliminating the remaining services and will be done in March.”

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and members of Congress have criticized the wireless carriers and called for investigations in the wake of a story by the Motherboard news website that said T-Mobile, US, Inc., Sprint Corp., and AT&T “are selling access to their customers’ location data, and that data is ending up in the hands of bounty hunters and others not authorized to possess it, letting them track most phones in the country” (TR Daily, Jan. 9).

Last year, the four national wireless carriers announced that they were terminating contracts with location information aggregators LocationSmart and Zumigo in the wake of a controversy about the sharing and use of location information (TR Daily, June 19 and 20, 2018).

“Protecting our customers’ privacy and security is a top priority, and we are transparent about that in our Privacy Policy,” a Sprint spokeswoman said today. “We do not knowingly share personally identifiable geo-location information except with customer consent or in response to a lawful request such as a validated court order from law enforcement.

“As a result of our investigation, we determined that Zumigo violated the terms of our contract by not sufficiently protecting Sprint customer data in its relationship with MicroBilt [which was also mentioned in the Motherboard story],” she added. “We took immediate action to ensure MicroBilt no longer had access to Sprint location data, and have notified Zumigo that we are immediately terminating our contract. We don’t tolerate violations of privacy and data security protections for our customer data.”

A T-Mobile spokesman said today that the carrier did not have anything new to add past an earlier statement in which “Politico” quoted it saying that it was “nearly finished” with terminating its third-party location aggregator agreements.

A Verizon Communications, Inc., spokesman said today that it “is not among the companies cited for recent problems.  We have worked hard to implement the commitments we made last summer about location aggregation arrangements.  We have followed through on our commitment to terminate aggregation arrangements and provide location information only with the express consent of our customers.

“To be transparent, we have maintained the prior arrangements for four roadside assistance companies during the winter months for public safety reasons but they have agreed to transition out of the existing arrangements by the end of the March,” he added. “We have terminated all other such arrangements.” – Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily