Senate Democrats called on federal agencies Wednesday to investigate the practice by major telecommunications companies of selling location data generated by subscribers’ mobile devices following an undercover investigation by a security reporter that shed new light on a black market trade.
In a report Tuesday, Motherboard reporter Joseph Cox described the process he underwent to acquire the location data of a mobile phone from a source in the bail bond industry. For $300, he was able to acquire the location of the phone with little to no fuss. The data he received reportedly included longitude and latitude coordinates accurate up to roughly 0.3 miles.
According to Cox, the source claimed to have received the data from a firm called Microbit. While posing as a potential customer, he was able to confirm that Microbit was geolocating phones on behalf of bail bondsman. The firm received the data from a location “aggregator” called Zumigo, which had in turn purchased it directly from T-Mobile.
Senators Kamala Harris, Ron Wyden, and Mark Warner called on the appropriate federal agencies to investigate, namely the Federal Communications Commission.
T-Mobile told Gizmodo in response to the Motherboard story that it had “blocked access to device location data for any request submitted by Zumigo.” The company also stated that it was working to fulfill its promise made last summer to sever ties with third-party data aggregators. “We are nearly finished with that process,” it said. (Read more from “Report of Bounty Hunters Buying Phone Location Data Leaves U.S. Senators Seething” HERE)