In other words, Verizon was simply selling the data, failing to properly audit its use, and companies have been freely trading in user location data as a result.
Verizon would do so after discovering that brokers who purchased data did not verify whether its users had legal permission to track cell phone users through its service.
Verizon was the first cellular carrier to take action in response to an investigation instigated by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden that looked into how cellular companies sell customers' real-time location data to data brokers. And as the Location Smart and Securus scandal proved, that data isn't always all that anonymous, and can routinely be abused. Verizon also likely wants to avoid any real, meaningful privacy rules, something the company has been fighting against for the better part of the last decade.
The company disclosed its plans in a letter to Sen.
Verizon said that it immediately blocked Securus once it determined that the company was accessing location information for unauthorized purposes.
Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have pledged to stop providing information on USA phone owners' locations to data brokers, stepping back from a business practice that has drawn criticism for endangering privacy.
AT&T is joining Verizon in pledging to end sales of phone location data to brokers. So far, neither Sprint nor T-Mobile have been willing to comment or join the fun, despite T-Mobile's reputation as a fierce consumer ally (ignoring their opposition to net neutrality, of course).
AT&T, in a letter to Wyden, said they only allow authorized third parties to access the data when customers have given consent or when forced to via a court order. The nation's two largest carriers will continue to offer location data for services like roadside assistance and fraud prevention, but there won't be any shady third-parties managing access to that data.
Sprint, in a statement to The Verge, confirmed that it would be ending the sale of subscriber location data as well. Sprint previously suspended all data sharing with LocationSmart on May 25, 2018.
"We believe that ending the ability of law enforcement to use these critical tools will hurt public safety and put Americans at risk", the spokesman said.
Gigi Sohn, a former top advisor at the Federal Communications Commission in the Obama administration, said Verizon has lately proven itself a "shining example" on privacy.
Moy said Verizon may have been motivated by an FCC fine for an earlier episode in which the company quietly tracked its wireless customers' online travels with a "supercookie" for at least 22 months beginning in December 2012. It notified Wyden's office late last week that it would stop selling data to LocationSmart and a similar firm called Zumigo. But the GOP-led Congress quashed those rules previous year.