Jan. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. cellular carrier Sprint said Wednesday it's decided to stop selling customers' location data to third parties, including bounty hunters -- following AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon in the move.
An investigation by tech publication Motherboard found that anyone can track the location of any cellphone for $300. For example, Motherboard found the location of a phone on T-Mobile's network was sold through a chain of different companies and a bounty hunter. This followed an investigation last year by the New York Times and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., which found another location aggregator provided data to law enforcement.
The public's realization that telecommunication companies are selling location data was embarrassing for providers and put them in an awkward position because the information is useful for applications.
After waffling on the issue last year, Sprint finally decided to cut ties with the data aggregators Wednesday.
"Last year, we decided to end our arrangements with data aggregators, but assessed that the negative impacts to customers for services like roadside assistance and bank fraud alerts/protection that would result required a different approach," Sprint told UPI in a statement. "We implemented new, more stringent safeguards to help protect customer location data, but as a result of recent events, we have decided to end our arrangements with data aggregators."
AT&T and Verizon said last year they would stop selling data to third parties.
"In light of recent reports about the misuse of location services, we have decided to eliminate all location aggregation services -- even those with clear consumer benefits," AT&T said in a statement.
Verizon will close four remaining contracts with roadside assistance companies. Once that's done, customers will have to give permission for the carrier to share location data with companies.
T-Mobile will fully end its location aggregation in March.