Verizon and AT&T have now promised to take a more considerate approach to the handling of consumer location data, vowing to stop sales of the information to certain data brokers. The former company announced its intentions in a June 15 letter to an Oregon senator who had been looking into the practice. AT&T, meanwhile, quickly joined its rival as of June 19. According to Verizon, conducting business with LocationSmart and Zumigo resulted in the location data becoming available to no fewer than 75 other companies. Consumers had not been made aware of the situation and the deals ultimately provided those unnamed companies with very accurate location data pertaining to each customer whose data had been sold. AT&T hasn't provided any approximate figures for its own data broker sales but the company is the second-largest carrier in the U.S. Although speculative, that could place its own numbers on par with or ahead of Verizon's.
Whatever the actual figures might be, both companies have effectively said that they will cease these types of deals with brokers as soon as it is possible to do so. Neither company has given an exact time frame for when the deals would be brought to a close. Some of the data being sold is used for what Verizon calls "beneficial services" to the customers, highlighting roadside assistance and fraud prevention. AT&T likely has similar arrangements for the use of the data it is collecting so it appears as though both will need some time to sort out the logistics of ending the sales.
In the meantime, the companies are assuring users that the end of those respective sales won't affect their own mobile services. So customers won't need to worry about losing access to Google Maps or other location-based services provided by apps. That location data is controlled entirely by the user, whereas the location data which was being sold is collected and held by Verizon and AT&T. Having said all of that, neither company plans to halt sales of consumer data altogether either. The two will reportedly only be bringing an end of sales to third-party brokers which then turn around and sell or otherwise provide the data to other companies or entities.