(Natural News) Is your mobile phone carrier illegally selling your GPS location data to bounty hunters without your knowledge or consent? A new report says it’s a strong possibility, as it exposes pretty much every major cellphone carrier as a culprit in a massive privacy breach and surveillance scheme that’s apparently been taking place for years under the radar.
According to Motherboard (VICE), AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are all guilty of violating their customers’ privacy rights, as they’ve been pawning off for profit sensitive location data about their users that was intended to be collected for 911 operators and other emergency services.
These three major carriers reportedly pawned off the precise location data of at least some of their customers to roughly 250 bounty hunters, each of whom paid up to $1,100 a pop to location data companies working with these mobile phone carriers – to the tune of tens of thousands of individual requests – which procured them with this sensitive information.
Is anything sacred anymore when it comes to personal privacy?
While Motherboard uncovered last month that bounty hunters were illicitly accessing the location data of their targets by looking at the “pings” sent back and forth between their phones and local service towers, it has now been revealed that the data these bounty hunters have been accessing was even more precise than that.
Reports indicate that a “shadowy” company called CerCareOne was collecting and selling assisted-GPS, also known as A-GPS, data, which is so accurate that it can actually pinpoint the exact location of a mobile phone user inside a building.
While the stated purpose of collecting A-GPS data has long been that it helps emergency responders such as those dispatch by 911 more easily find victims, it would appear as though this data was actually a side gig for the mobile phone industry, which has been profiting from its illegal sale to private third parties.
Motherboard reports that none of the three carriers in question have denied selling A-GPS data to bounty hunters, though CerCareOne is no longer in existence. AT&T has also stated on record that it no longer aggregates the location data of its customers “after reports of misuse by other location services involving aggregators.”
Verizon also has partnerships with companies that sell private location data
Verizon isn’t in the clear, either, it’s important to note, even though its tracking technology is apparently a bit less sophisticated than the others. Like the other three, Verizon did have a partnership with a location data company called Securus, as well as several others. But the company has stated that it’s “winding down” these aggregator contracts, all of which are said to facilitate Verizon’s roadside assistance services.
“This scandal keeps getting worse,” says Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, one of at least 15 senators who are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action in response to these disturbing revelations.
“Carriers assured customers’ location tracking abuses were isolated incidents. Now, it appears that hundreds of people could track our phones, and they were doing it for years before anyone at the wireless companies took action,” he added.
Sen. Wyden went on to state that this is hardly just an “oversight,” but that it’s rather a “flagrant, willful disregard for the safety and security of Americans.”
In response to the claim by all of the mobile phone carriers that they are going to stop engaging in this illegal behavior, Sen. Wyden stated, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” He contends that these carriers are directly responsible for their customers’ location data, and that it’s inappropriate for them to “lay the blame for misuse on downstream companies,” which is what they’re all doing.
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