Telecom companies are selling user’s location data again

The main telecommunications companies in the U.S. pledged to stop selling their customer data, which has not happened yet

Reports of cybersecurity and digital forensics experts from the International Institute of Cyber Security say that Ron Wyden, U.S. Senator, is promoting a campaign in the U.S. Congress to draft a law against the sale of private information from telecommunications company clients (such as location data) after an investigation was published stating that multiple telephone companies still carry out these kind of practices.

The senator, a member of the Democratic Party for the state of Oregon, claims that executives of major telecommunications companies operating in the U.S., such as John Legere of T-Mobile, have broke their promise to restrict access to this information for bounty hunters or any other third party interested in this data with user-tracking purposes.

Senator Wyden’s claim has occurred after the publication of an investigation that found that companies such as T-Mobile, AT&T, or Sprint keep selling the location data of their customers to third parties which, in turn, might be selling this data to individuals or groups for purposes potentially detrimental to users. Among those interested in accessing these location data are the so-called “bounty hunters”, who try to collect as much information as possible from people with bills pending with the law or with moneylenders. “In general, the data is sold to anyone who pays for it,” said the experts in cybersecurity.

It doesn’t matter if it’s cybercriminals, stalkers, private detectives, etc. This personal information is available to anyone who is willing to pay for these groups who, in turn, obtain the information directly from the telecom companies. According to the investigation, the identified data brokers were tore apart from their information sources, although this practice is expected to be working again soon.

According to cybersecurity experts, this practice is nothing new. In addition, they add that this information could be collected by monitoring cell phone towers while users are in a considerable distance radius. Companies like AT&T, or Sprint are repeat offenders, while companies like Verizon seem to have definitely cut this practice.

This practice has generated a call to U.S. legislators to create new laws that prohibit companies from selling this data to third parties. Senator Wyden has worked since last year to address this need, calling for telecom companies, which pledged to stop selling this location data.

However, given the lack of commitment of the telecommunications companies, Wyden decided to take up this matter in its legislative agenda. “The main companies pledged to stop this practice, but these seem to be empty promises. It is time for Congress to take the necessary steps to ensure consumer privacy”, the senator said.