AT&T is getting sued for selling customersā€™ location data

Published by T C on

The Verge

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

AT&T was sued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation today for selling customer location data to third parties, after controversy erupted earlier this year over wireless carriersā€™ data practices.

The digital activism group filed the proposed class action suit today on behalf of AT&T customers in California. The suit also named two other companies, LocationSmart and Zumigo, which have acted as data aggregators, collecting location information and selling it to third parties for commercial use.

ā€œAT&T has knowingly breached its duties to protect Plaintiffsā€™ sensitive location data in order to profit from it,ā€ the suit reads.

The suit stems from recent investigations into how AT&T and other wireless carriers share the sensitive data. AĀ New York TimesĀ article last year found that law enforcement hasĀ used the dataĀ to track phones without a court order. In another investigation, published earlier this year,Ā MotherboardĀ was able toĀ pay a bounty hunterĀ $300 to track the location of a phone using the data. Several lawmakers were quick to criticize the companiesā€™ policies following theĀ MotherboardĀ report.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is suing alongside the law firm Pierce Bainbridge, argues that the data, meant for tracking emergency calls, was not properly authorized by customers for commercial use. Calling AT&Tā€™s practices ā€œoutrageous and harmful,ā€ the suit argues that the sale of location data puts customers at risk, potentially exposing the information to people like stalkers.

Under federal law, the suit continues, AT&T is bound to secure the sensitive customer information, but has failed to do so. The suit also accuses the company of misrepresenting its privacy protections to customers.

ā€œThe facts donā€™t support this lawsuit, and we will fight it,ā€ an AT&T spokesperson said in a statement. ā€œLocation-based services like roadside assistance, fraud protection, and medical device alerts have clear and even life-saving benefits. We only share location data with customer consent. We stopped sharing location data with aggregators after reports of misuse.ā€

The suit proposes to create a class of plaintiffs that includes AT&T customers living in California since 2011, and seeks damages for the customers, who number in the millions.

Update, 12:56PM ET:Ā Includes statement from AT&T spokesperson.

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https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/16/20696222/att-location-data-tracking-lawsuit-electronic-frontier-foundation
 


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