T-Mobile responds to location data scandal, says it’s ‘completely ending’ aggregator work

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Days after a new report came out that show that T-Mobile and other carriers were selling customer location data that could easily be bought and used by bounty hunters to track a phone’s location, T-Mobile has said that it’s working to end that practice.

T-Mobile said in a statement to The Verge that it has “blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo.” In the report that came out earlier this week, the location data used to find a T-Mo phone for $300 was sold by T-Mobile to Zumigo, who then sold it to Microbilt, a company that then sold it to a bail bond company and the source that provided the phone’s location.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere made a similar statement on Twitter, saying that T-Mo is “completely ending location aggregator work.” He added that T-Mobile is trying to do it “the right way” to avoid affecting consumers who use these services for things like emergency assistance. “It will end in March,” Legere added.

As for the other U.S. carriers, Sprint told that it has ended its contract with Zumigo and blocked Microbilt from accessing Sprint location data. It also said that it will not “knowingly share personally identifiable geo-location information” except when it comes to legal requests.

Verizon says that it ended its agreement with Zumigo before the original report came out this week. AT&T has yet to issue an official statement on the matter.

This is the second time in the past year that T-Mobile has been part of a location data scandal. In 2018, a company called LocationSmart had a bug with its website that allowed anyone to track the location of any phone for free. T-Mo CEO John Legere said then that T-Mobile would not sell customer location data to “shady middlemen”. Now that Legere says T-Mo is ending its location aggregator work, hopefully T-Mobile can avoid a third scandal involving the sale of customer location data.

Sources: The Verge, John Legere (Twitter)

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  • dontsh00tmesanta

    Shouldn’t have done it in the first place

    • dcmanryan

      Exactly. They’re sorry because they got caught and if they wouldn’t have the data mining and spying would just continue to go on.

  • riverhorse

    That’s Zumigo, but what about others {including just Zumigo starting a subsidiary with another name}?
    A decade ago i rented a place for a remote gig and discovered the creepy landlord constantly tracked all the tenants’ whereabouts at will. Was a mistake to have used Gmail with him.

    • marque2

      I got rid of the Facebook app (and eventually Facebook) for a similar reason. A person, thankfully a friend, thought ot was funny to text me where I was located within feet using the app. I realized it was just he – but all the friends and even friends of friend many whom I only knew slightly. They could easily figure I was working in military weapons facility at the time.

      • riverhorse

        I never did Social Media. How FB used to spam with xxxx wants to be friends with you was not believable.
        After discharge I stayed overseas and worked there a few more years. Then I came back here and ended up opening a bunch of Domino’s and Papa John’s, usually in not so prosperous areas, but… for PR pretty much had to join FB, etc.
        By cellphone I had to dispatch drivers plus call customers who didn’t answer the door for delivery. By luck I used for all this a spare family line that under myaccount I had given a movie character pen name.. so all Google, FB, Twitter, etc. were also under this name. To this day that line is inundated with friend suggestions- 100% of them are minority names, females showing off their booty or males with gang signage.. not one single corporate/professional friend suggestion the entire time.
        It was also at this time that my landlord once commented, “Mr. McClane, you went to Manhattan yesterday, so did your neighbor upstairs”.”Oh, did he see me?” “No, i could see you both on Google Maps.”

        The other semi-related weird occurrence: I had actually gone to open a credit Union account in NYC and gotten turned down. The rep said she couldn’t verify that i existed. I explained that I didn’t work prior to enlisting and that afterwards i worked overseas before coming back. “But you don’t even exist on Facebook or anything like it, I’m looking at several databases.” I quote her verbatim… and btw no prior question about FB or anything electronic!
        We left it at that on contingency I would return with dd214, etc.
        On the way home I get a Google ad for a bank-open an account online instantly. On a lark i I plugged in my pen name(and its associated phone#&emmail) but with all other real personal details unchanged save for a friend’s NY address. Presto! Thank you for opening an account, your debit card is on the way.

        • Bklynman

          That’s even more nuts!! That’s doesn’t make no sense,u were turn down? What about your credit report?

        • riverhorse

          To be fair to them, I didn’t have credit header for several reasons, given my age group and other circumstances. Nowadays newborns get ssn# at birth, and it gets used for everything-grade school, children Bank accounts, parents tax formsgovt programsetc.
          In my time, our whole high school received ssn’s en masse, and i never used it at all before enlisting- not for school-even community college, not for Bank account-which was started as a minor and then converted to adult at 18, not for driver license, didn’t have any lease or bills in my name..
          Then service was overseas, didn’t even obtain a passport, as military ID served as such.
          Afterwards, civilian life in NYC flows similarly for many people. Many don’t bother getting a driver license, sublet with utilities included, have prepaid cellular, a lot of the finest French Italian hotels and restaurants historically never bothered with a payroll (and no one cared- minimum wage was $1.99 hourly for tipped workers- you received a small shift pay in cash, in addition to the few hundred in tips you made each day. In fact, in a few places you had to pay the house a shift pay for the privilege of making so much in tips nightly).

          HOWEVER, the main point of interest here is how ssn’s are NOT verified directly with SSA***. In my experience since, with Banks and various NY & NJ citystate government agencies(from voting to professional licenses to benefits programs), SSN not obligatory to be presented is verified thru dmv and various credit, etc. databases…AND HOW MUCH WEIGHT social media info carries in this…and unrelated, but what a farcical deal law enforcement makes about forbidding certain felons from having social media accounts.
          *** The only exception I’ve seen is with high amounts of money and a bank needs extra verification, they’ll ask you to do a conference call with SSA. While the govt employee asks you pertinent details, the bank agent is blocked off, then unblocked to be told you are verified.

          ANYHOW, nowadays I’m able to open Bank accounts online, and almost none have requested docs.
          The only places that throw a problem are the verifications for RJR tobacco promos and for mature content.

      • Bklynman

        Wow,that crazy!!!

    • YVB

      Exactly! You read my mind.

    • SirStephenH

      “completely ending location aggregator work” didn’t specify Zumingo only so I assume that means all location aggregation.

      • riverhorse

        I think the article was edited. I don’t remember the completely part originally.
        Or maybe it’s me, although i don’t smoke weed, you can’t get away from the smell anywhere you go in NYC.

  • Nearmsp

    T-mobile likes to paint itself as an “uncarrier”. Fact is when got with the pants down, everyone wants to become a Saint. T-mobile should be banned from buying Sprint. It will become the new “AT&T” once they combine with Sprint, just like Comcast.

    • marque2

      Mobile should buy Sprint otherwise in 10 years when our data needs go up exponentially there will only be two competative carriers who can handle it AT&T and Verizon. I can only imagine how much they would charge for 5G

      • Nearmsp

        T-mobile gained 2.4 million customers last quarter while AT&T has been losing customers in successive quarters. There is nothing T-mobile to lease capacity from Sprint. There is no need to create massive sized companies that will together screw the customer. It is common in Europe and Australia for wireless companies to lease wireless capacity or have agreements for bulk data in areas where they do not have enough spectrum.

        • marque2

          And will that last when Att and V have true 5g at true 5g speeds amd Mobile has fake 5g barely as fast as 4g on their 600mhz band?

          Probably not for long. This years customers will be loat soon enough if Tmo cant keep up.

          Very poor argument on your part. Don’t be moronically anti business just because you learned some socialist nonsense in college.

        • Christina

          Look at Canada. It now has only 3 carriers and the most expensive cell phone bills in the world. You wake up. Before it’s too late.

        • Ride or die

          I really think Canada is not a great example if you look at Pop. 36.71 million people live in Canada that is less then California. Then you look at land mass Canada is bigger then the US. So to provide service that covers everyone across the board you need to charge more, it is Economy of Scale.

        • SirStephenH

          Still sticking with that lame, false argument I see.

          There is nothing “fake” about T-Mobile’s 5G. There is no minimum speed requirement for 5G, it’s only about the technology (which T-Mobile is using). T-Mobile isn’t deploying on band 71 only like you claim, it’s deploying on mmWave and band 71 and if the Sprint merger goes through then it’ll be deploying on high-band (band 41) too. Deploying on low-band beside mmWave provides better, more consistent service and Verizon is doing the same.

        • marque2

          Yeah, no – I have heard very little comment about the millimeter bandwidth – that apparently is years in the future. And I agree with you, if they put 5g on 600Mhz, it is still 5g, but with no benefits to me, the customer, what is the point?

    • JStatt

      I don’t think you understand just how much capital and spectrum is needed for strong 5G. T-Mobile by 2021 will not be able to keep up with the big two without the merger. It’ll be a substandard performer forever.

      • Eric A

        You do know that 5G has nothing to do with cell service. 5G is being designed to deliver high speed internet to homes without the need of cable or fiber thereby providing an alternative to traditional carriers. The fact that cell phone services would also be carried by 5G signals is just a coincidence.

        • JStatt

          5G is being used for both wireless and fixed wireless service. That has absolutely no impact on my comment. Both verizon and ATT are using 5G to provide fixed wireless and wireless 5G services and T-Mobile will not be able to keep up without acquiring Sprint.

        • riverhorse

          Yes, and just to piggyback- from the monopoly days of Ma Bell, Western Electric and IT&T… the present top 2 cellular entities just have so much of a head start re ownership or access rights to below and above ground…plus bandwave. They inherited the whole country to themselves almost exclusively. Nowadays the only type of telecommunications entity with any infrastructurably comparable chance to compete would be a cable company-and only regionally.
          So i always give kudos to a foreign entity that started with zero and had to pay thru the nose block by block… to say nothing of endless rival dirty tactics we could discuss ad nauseum.
          It does seem impossible to catch up nationally, while undercutting on price and given 5G shorter range. It seems like further acquisitions or share agreements beyond Sprint would still be in order. A cable provider, a satellite company, Google, Amazon…in order to be able to blanket the entire US and handle congestion.
          I don’t see how uncapped cellular phone, TV and home internet for all can be provided with just what they have right now on paper and with the proposed merger. Overly ambitious seems like the understatement of the century.
          I really hope to eat crow though.

        • SirStephenH

          You kidding me? It has everything to do with cell service. This is the next generation of cell service and will eventually replace LTE. 5G provides 15-50% better spectral efficiency than LTE utilizing the same spectrum. It will provide higher speeds and capacity while lowering ping times. This is necessary in order to keep up with increased usage and bandwidth needs. This is simply the first technology that can also allow for home internet service on a large scale.