According to Motherboard, major telecommunications companies are facing lawsuits for selling their customers’ location data to third party companies.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint had sold access to the real-time locations of their customers’ phones to third party “middlemen companies,” including one called Securus, before going to bounty hunters. Customers are seeking damages from those companies.
Motherboard also says that Verizon was involved in a data scandal last year when it sold location data to third parties, including the bail bondsman industry.
“The class in each lawsuit covers an approximation of the telcos’ individual customers between April 30, 2015 and February 15, 2019: 100 million for Verizon, 100 million for AT&T, 50 million for T-Mobile, and 50 million for Sprint,” Motherboard says. “Each lawsuit is filed in the name of at least one customer for each telco, and they are seeking unspecified damages to be determined at trial, the complaints read.”
The bulk of those complaints honed in on whether or not each company violated a part of the Federal Communications Act, which states that telcos are obligated to protect customers’ confidential proprietary information (CPI) and customer proprietary network information (CPNI), and whether or not customers’ CPNI was accessible to unauthorized third parties “during the relevant period,” Motherboard says.
The complaints also mention how selling that data enabled low level law enforcement “to locate phones without a warrant.”
Motherboard also reports that it initially helped unveil these companies selling customers’ data earlier this year. After the news broke, each company stated that they would stop selling phone location data to third parties. “AT&T and T-Mobile previously told Motherboard they have already done so, ”Motherboard says.
Sprint plans to discontinue the sale of customers’ data at the end of this month; Verizon pledged to stop selling customers’ location data after the 2018 scandal.