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US telcos agree to curb location sharing amid rising concerns over online privacy

By Ronan Shields | Digital Editor

June 20, 2018 | 3 min read

Amid heightened public scrutiny over online privacy, US telcos Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have pledged to stop sharing subscribers’ location data with anonymous data brokers.

The policy turnaround from all four of the US’ largest wireless network providers came on the back of inquiries from Oregon Senator Ron Wyden who has been probing the location-sharing economy.

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The US carriers have agreed to curb location-sharing with 'anonymous' online data brokers

Verizon declared it would cease selling user location data to data brokers – in particular, LocationSmart and Zumingo – in a letter to Senator Wyden with the other carriers following suit after the u-turn was reported by Associated Press.

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Per the report, none of the concerned carriers will totally cease location sharing with the wireless network providers likely to continue using it for services such as fraud prevention, the emergency services, etc.

“After my investigation and follow-up reports revealed that middlemen are selling Americans’ location to the highest bidder without their consent, or making it available on insecure web portals, Verizon did the responsible thing and promptly announced it was cutting these companies off,” said Senator Wyden in a written statement.

Specifically, the policy turnaround has been introduced to placate concerns over anonymous online data brokers whom often have little or no direct contact with consumers. These companies then monetize such insights by selling this data on for a variety of purposes, such as helping advertisers to optimize their campaigns.

Online privacy laws are currently being legislated for on a state-by-state basis in the US, with separate draft legislation initiatives in California and Vermont both echoing the recently enacted General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in the European Union.

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