Days after some a report revealed that some U.S. carriers were selling customer location data that was ending up in the hands of bounty hunters, some of the operators have vowed to put an end to the practice.
T-Mobile and Sprint are taking action with Zumigo and Microbilt, the companies involved in the recent story where a bounty hunter was able to locate a phone in exchange for $300. T-Mobile told The Verge that it's "blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo on behalf of Microbilt".
Meanwhile, T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeted that his company is "completely ending location aggregator work." The shutdown is currently scheduled for March. "We’re doing it the right way to avoid impacting consumers who use these types of services for things like emergency assistance," Legere explained.
Sprint is cutting ties with both Zumigo and Microbilt, saying that it immediately stopped Microbilt from accessing Sprint location data following this week's report and that it has also terminated its contract with Zumigo. Sprint added that it will not "knowingly share personally identifiable geo-location information" expect when it involves a legal request.
AT&T hasn't yet commented on the situation, so it's unclear what, if anything, it's doing on the matter. Verizon has said that it ended its location services agreement with Zumigo before this week's report was published.
Earlier this week, a report revealed that a bounty hunter was able to locate a T-Mobile phone within a few hundred meters using just its phone number in exchange for $300. The location data had been shared from T-Mobile to Zumigo, who then sold it to Microbilt. The data was then sold to many different entities, including landlords and bail bondsmen. There's been a lot of backlash since then, as many consumers are upset that their location data could be purchased. The report showed that Microbilt was offering to locate a phone for as little as $4.95 and that you could get real-time data on a phone's location for as little as $12.95.
UPDATE: AT&T has now confirmed that it will end all location aggregation services in March. Here's the company's statement to CNET:
"Last year we stopped most location aggregation services while maintaining some that protect our customers, such as roadside assistance and fraud prevention. In light of recent reports about the misuse of location services, we have decided to eliminate all location aggregation services - even those with clear consumer benefits. We are immediately eliminating the remaining services and will be done in March."