It was bad enough when a sheriff could obtain geolocation data to track down anyone he wished. But that was only a symptom of the bigger problem: US carriers are selling all sorts of data to third-party brokers who, in turn, organize and resell it to anyone who wishes to have it.
Motherboard’s initial investigation generated enough concern in Congress for lawmakers to pressure the networks to respond. They did, saying that they would cut off brokers and limit their dealings to ad agencies only.
The same publication has now learned through a trove of documents that tons of damage has already been done. CerCareOne, a broker that closed down in late 2017, had been selling real-time enhanced location data off of AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile phones to “bounty hunters, bail bondsmen, and bail agents” since 2012.
Assisted GPS or A-GPS is intended to aid emergency service workers in locating a 911 caller, usually within mere meters of where they are. A single phone’s data would sell for up to $1,100.
About 250 CerCareOne customers were categorized as in the bail bond industry. One customer made 18,000 phone location requests in over a year.
None of the customers responded to requests for comment. Sprint did not directly comment on the issue. T-Mobile said it didn’t have “anything further to add.” AT&T has not commented.