At this very moment for a hundred bucks or so I can track your exact location legitimately… well… we’ll call it ‘semi-legitimately’.
It should probably come as no surprise that this capacity – more the tools of the CIA and FBI than an author with too much time on their hands – is thanks entirely to the supercomputer in your pocket that makes the space shuttle look downright archaic; your phone!
That being said all this was supposed to have already been halted, prevented, and/or banned as per Congressional hearings half a year ago in June 2018 when all four major US wireless carriers pledged to stop selling their mobile customers’ location information after coming under attack from a concerned congress and public. The carriers were pressured into making the change after a security problem leaked the real-time location of US cell phone users; freaky.
However, it appears that cell service providers didn’t really ‘stop’ marketing your location as much as they apparently passed on the task to third parties… for a price of course. Motherboard explains,
“T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are [still] selling access to their customers’ location data and that data is ending up in the hands of bounty hunters and others not authorized to possess it, letting them track most phones in the country.
Your mobile phone is constantly communicating with nearby cell phone towers, so your telecom provider knows where to route calls and texts. From this, telecom companies also work out the phone’s approximate location based on its proximity to those towers.
Although many users may be unaware of the practice, telecom companies in the United States sell access to their customers’ location data to other companies, called location aggregators, who then sell it to specific clients and industries.
Last year, one location aggregator called LocationSmart faced harsh criticism for selling data that ultimately ended up in the hands of Securus, a company which provided phone tracking to low level enforcement without requiring a warrant. LocationSmart also exposed the very data it was selling through a buggy website panel, meaning anyone could geolocate nearly any phone in the United States at a click of a mouse.”
T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint – the largest involved carriers – all were quick to tell media they’d be halting all business with the questionable data middlemen but the reality is the middlemen belong to a market entirely created by them; quite literally thanks to a tool developed that lets third parties make use of stored location data at all. Not to mention the practice of hoarding location information to be stored in the first place.
The three largest telecom providers implicated in the expose, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have all expressed their apologies and committed themselves to disallow the sale of information to such actors.
*But* six months ago they were singing the same tune about their own actions right before they went ahead and started selling the information to third parties… including bounty hunters.
Bet they don’t list that service in your monthly statement…