Four of the biggest mobile carriers in the US are now facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that they were selling their customers’ location data to bounty hunters and low level law enforcement. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon are all named in the lawsuit, a result of investigations from Motherboard, The New York Times, and the office of Senator Ron Wyden. The case has been filed on behalf of the telcos’ customers and seeks unspecified damages that will be determined at the trial.
An investigative report from Motherboard last January showed that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint allowed a network of middlemen companies to have access to their customers’ real-time location. They eventually landed in the hands of bounty hunters who were able to use the information to track whoever it is that needed to be tracked down. The New York Times also ran a report back in 2018 saying that the carriers, including Verizon, provided data to Securus, which allowed low level law enforcement to locate phones of citizens, even without a warrant.
Z Law, a “consumer protection law firm”, filed the lawsuit and covers the approximated number of customers each of the telcos had between April 30, 2015 and February 15, 2019. The numbers cover 100 million each for Verizon and AT&T and 50 million each for T-Mobile and Sprint. The financial damages for each customer will be determined when it reaches trial.
15 senators previously asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate these carriers but nothing came out of it. After the report came out, AT&T and T-Mobile said that they have since then stopped the selling of location data while Sprint says they will do so by end of May. None of the carriers have any official comment regarding the lawsuit.