Telecom Companies Sell Location Data

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Telecom Companies Sell Location Data
Short Title Telecom Companies Sell Real-Time Location Data of Phones To Third Parties
Location United States
Date January 2019

Taxonomy Secondary Use, Surveillance, Disclosure
Information Location, Computer Device
Threat Actors Telecom companies

Individuals
Affected Mobile phones users
High Risk Groups
Secondary Consequences

Telecom companies are selling access to their customers’ location data to not authorized third parties, such as bounty hunters.

Description

Mobile phones are constantly communicating with nearby cell phone towers, so the telecom providers know where to route calls and texts. From this, telecom companies also work out the phone’s approximate location based on its proximity to those towers. Constant collection of that data can be seen as Surveillance.

Although many users are unaware of it, telecom companies in the United States, such as T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T sell access to their customers’ location data to other companies, called location aggregators, who then sell it to specific clients and industries. Disclosure Secondary Use

Media reported on cases when bounty hunters were able to find the current location of the phone just for a few hundred dollars, without deploying a hacking tool or having any previous knowledge of the phone’s whereabouts.

Risk Statistics

Laws and Regulations

Sources

https://www.vice.com/en us/article/nepxbz/i-gave-a-bounty-hunter-300-dollars-located-phone-microbilt-zumigo-tmobile
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/16/opinion/foursquare-privacy-internet.html