A recent wave of class action lawsuits filed against AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-mobile, represents a combined 300 million customers suing their carriers for allegedly selling private location data to almost anyone.
If this sounds familiar, that's because a recent investigative report exposed the practice of unauthorized disclosure (to just about anyone) via third party services which purchase the information directly from the carrier and sell it to interested parties. While consumers might find some comfort in knowing that emergency services will be able to locate them in case of an emergency, most folks probably aren't comfortable with their information being purchased by any other interested individuals or businesses.
Not Just for Marketing Purposes
Over the last few years, data privacy has become a big deal as all the technology that has pushed our world to be more connected has also been used to exploit user data for profit. We are finding out about all the nefarious uses that go beyond just that localized and scarily specific advertising. In the recently filed class actions, it is explained that bounty hunters (yes, bounty hunters), debt collectors, and others can track their targets using live data obtained from third party services who received the data directly from the carriers, for a price of $300.
Paying for Privacy Violations
Basically, information that would generally require law enforcement to get a warrant from a judge to obtain, was just being sold to whoever was willing to pay, without any regulatory oversight. This was still happening as late as January 2019, despite the carriers agreeing to stop the practice after the June 2018 Supreme Court decision explaining the warrant requirement and the discovery of the nefarious Securus tool that enabled law enforcement to track nearly every cell phone in America in real time.
The consumer protection lawsuit seeks to not only stop the practice of location data being sold without any oversight, but also seeks refunds for the consumers who have had their location data sold.