Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Cell Carriers Sold Location Data to Bounty Hunters

Jason Koebler (tweet):

Around 250 bounty hunters and related businesses had access to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint customer location data, according to documents obtained by Motherboard. The documents also show that telecom companies sold data intended to be used by 911 operators and first responders to data aggregators, who sold it to bounty hunters. The data was in some cases so accurate that a user could be tracked to specific spots inside a building.


A list of a particular customer’s use of the phone location service obtained by Motherboard stretches on for around 450 pages, with more than 18,000 individual phone location requests in just over a year of activity. The bail bonds firm that initiated the requests—known in the industry as phone pings—did not respond to questions asking whether they obtained consent for locating the phones, or what the pings were for.

Joseph Cox:

Some of these bounty hunters then resold location data to those unauthorized to handle it, according to two independent sources familiar with CerCareOne’s operations.


“This scandal keeps getting worse. Carriers assured customers location tracking abuses were isolated incidents. Now it appears that hundreds of people could track our phones, and they were doing it for years before anyone at the wireless companies took action,” Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in an emailed statement after presented with Motherboard’s findings.


“With AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile phones, utilizes GPS technology to track registered cell phones to within a few feet of their location,” the article reads. “With Verizon, they use less-precise cellular triangulation technology.”


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