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US Telecom Operators Say They've (Mostly) Stopped Selling Your Location Data To Shady Middlemen

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In a collection of letters published by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on Thursday, representatives of T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all said they had ceased or significantly curtailed the sale of their customers' location data to companies whose shady practices brought to light triggered alarms among privacy advocates and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. From a report: The companies were responding to questions from Rosenworcel prompted by news reports that location data originating with America's largest telecoms was being acquired and sold downstream by bounty hunters and others without the consent of the companies themselves or their customers. The New York Times, for instance, reported last year that law enforcement officials had also purchased access to location data, circumvented the usual need for a warrant. On Wednesday, House lawmakers grilled the FCC's chairman, Ajit Pai, for details about the status of the commission's nearly year-long investigation into the malpractice. After two hours, it adjourned with no new information. In a May 15 letter, AT&T said that as of March 29 it was no longer sharing its customers' data with location aggregators. Sprint said in its letter that it is now only sharing location data with one location aggregator and two customers "with a public interest," a roadside assistance company and another that facilities compliance with state lottery requirements. T-Mobile said that, as of February 8, it had "terminated all service provider access to location data" under its aggregator program, and that, as of March 9, it had terminated all existing aggregator contracts. "Except for four roadside assistance companies," Verizon terminated its location aggregator program as of November 2018, the company said. It added that the four remaining contracts were terminated by the end of March.

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