In the wake of a scandal involving third-party companies leaking or selling precise, real-time location data on virtually all Americans who own a mobile phone, the four major wireless carriers have responded to requests from a U.S. senator for more details about how the carriers are managing access to this extremely sensitive information. While three out of four providers said they had cancelled data sharing agreements with some of the offending companies, only one — Verizon — pledged to terminate all of them and initiate a wholesale review of their location data-sharing practices.
Your mobile phone is giving away your approximate location all day long. This isn’t exactly a secret: It has to share this data with your mobile provider constantly to provide better call quality and to route any emergency 911 calls straight to your location. But now, the major mobile providers in the United States — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — are selling this location information to third party companies — in real time — without your consent or a court order, and with apparently zero accountability for how this data will be used, stored, shared or protected.
It may be tough to put a price on one’s location privacy, but here’s something of which you can be sure: The mobile carriers are selling data about where you are at any time, without your consent, to third-parties for probably far less than you might be willing to pay to secure it.