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Barton, Markey to Wireless Carriers: ‘Do You Track Customers’ Location Info?’

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WASHINGTON, March 31, 2011 - Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), Co-Chairmen of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus sent letters Tuesday to Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T asking the wireless companies to disclose how the firms collect and stored user location data.

The letters to all four major wireless carriers were sent response to a recent story in the New York Times, which reported that the German mobile provider Deutsche Telekom tracked the locations of German politicians.

Deutsche Telekom currently owns T-Mobile, but AT&T struck a deal early last week to acquire the provider from the German company for $39 billion.

“Location, location, location may be the favored currency of the real estate industry but it is sensitive information for mobile phone users that must be safeguarded,” said Markey in a statement. “Collecting, storing and disclosing a consumer's exact whereabouts for commercial purposes without their express permission is unacceptable and violates current law.”

The representatives asked the mobile providers what types of identifiable information the carrier collects and how the data is stored.

The letters also ask the firms to “describe the policies and procedures your company utilizes to comply with Section 222 of the Communications Act,” which requires companies to obtain permission from users before disclosing any location based information.

“Companies have access to basic information about us from bank accounts to – as this case proves - our exact location. It’s like a real world version of the game 'Where’s Waldo?'” said Barton in a statement. “Hundreds of millions of us are carrying cell phones right now – Are we being tracked? And if so, why don’t we know it?”

Full copies of the letters can be found here: AT&T Sprint Verizon T-Mobile


Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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