In the wake of a report detailing the practice of U.S. carriers selling location data to third-parties, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint have pledged to stop doing so.
Earlier this week, Motherboard published an investigation into the location data market. While that data is sold to financial institutions and data aggregators, there’s little oversight in place to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
As evidence of that, Motherboard proved that it was able to pay a bounty hunter to track the exact location of a T-Mobile device. All that was needed were a few hundred dollars and the cell phone number.
Two of the other firms implicated in that story were a data aggregator named Zumigo and a location-tracking service called Microbilt, which provides its platforms to a variety of industries.
After the story was published, U.S. lawmakers were quick to put pressure on the carriers — criticizing them for not adequately protecting customer data.
Now, the trio of carriers has made a fresh set of promises that they’ll do better moving forward (via The Verge).
Sprint said that Zumigo and Microbilt had both violated its privacy policies. The carrier said it “took action” to ensure Microbilt no longer had access to its location data, and notified Zumigo that it is terminating their contract.
It also added that it doesn’t “knowingly share personally identifiable geo-location information,” expect for legal requests.
T-Mobile, for its part, also stated that it had blocked access to device location data “for any request submitted by Zumigo on behalf of Microbilt.” The carrier added that it was working toward ending third-party access to location data on a larger scale.
The third carrier named in the story, AT&T, said that it had already stopped partnering with “most” location aggregators last year. It will stop providing access to the remaining services immediately — a process that it says will wrap up in March.
Verizon was not named in the Motherboard report. Previously, it said it had severed its contract with Zumigo and ended similar third-party access before the report was published.
It’s worth noting that carriers have promised to crack down on this type of data access before. In fact, these announcements are the second of their kind in the past year.
Whether the new, more pro-privacy, policies stick this time remains to be seen.