Latest in Gear

Image credit: Prasit photo via Getty Images

Carriers were selling your location data to bounty hunters for years

A new investigation reveals the problem wasn't just an isolated incident.
493 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save
Prasit photo via Getty Images

Sponsored Links

Remember the controversy surrounding mobile networks that were selling your location data to bounty hunters? A new report at Motherboard says that the problem was far worse than the isolated incident it was initially made out to be. Rather than a couple of bad actors buying phone tower information, more than 250 organizations had been accessing individual location data. In one instance, a company made 18,000 requests for location information in a single year.

Carriers sell information about you to data aggregators, which normally require the user to consent before selling it on further. But some third parties opted to sell information, like people's whereabouts, on to bodies such as bail bond companies, bounty hunters and landlords. In its original report, Motherboard paid an bounty hunter $300 to get the location of a phone to within a few hundred meters.

Since then, new evidence has come to light claiming that other companies, including one named CerCareOne, sold A-GPS data. Rather than giving a person's position to within a third of a mile, it could potentially pinpoint them within a building. And that it was used on a regular basis to enable bodies to track down individuals who had failed to satisfy their bail bond, behind on their rent or just because.

CerCareOne also jealously guarded its own existence, insisting that anyone who dealt with it kept quiet about it. It's worth noting that these features are designed to be used by law enforcement agencies, which have a series of checks and balances. This commercial use is concerning, even though bail bond companies said they had clauses in their contract permitting electronic tracking.

The carriers involved, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile (Verizon, which owns Engadget, doesn't appear to offer a similar service) have all affirmed that they will end the practice of re-selling data. And it's worth reading Motherboard's story for all of the deeply troubling details about how the information you thought was private, really isn't.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
493 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share
Save

Popular on Engadget

Engadget's 2019 Back-to-School Guide

Engadget's 2019 Back-to-School Guide

View
Chicago will test Samsung's DeX in-vehicle solution in cop cars

Chicago will test Samsung's DeX in-vehicle solution in cop cars

View
Apple warns against storing its titanium credit card in leather

Apple warns against storing its titanium credit card in leather

View
Microsoft tests more control for apps that restart with Windows 10

Microsoft tests more control for apps that restart with Windows 10

View
Terminator T-800 and The Joker are coming to 'Mortal Kombat 11'

Terminator T-800 and The Joker are coming to 'Mortal Kombat 11'

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr