The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on Tuesday, alleging that it violated its customers’ privacy by selling location data to third parties.
What We Know:
- EFF, a nonprofit digital activism group, and law firm Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht filed the lawsuit on behalf of three AT&T customers in California. Two other companies, LocationSmart and Zumigo, were also mentioned in the suit as data aggregators and alleging that they allowed “thousands” of third parties to track cellphone users’ location without authorization.
- AT&T has real-time location data on its wireless customers that can be used to help 911 operators find callers in an emergency. For years AT&T has sold access to their customers’ location to data aggregators which ended up in the hands of bounty hunters, car dealers, landlords, stalkers and others in non-emergency situations.
- Thomas D. Warren, a lawyer at Pierce Bainbridge who is working on the suit with the EFF stated, “To sell this information without any notification to users is deceptive, extraordinarily invasive of their privacy, and illegal.”
- The class action complaint would ban the company from selling customer location data and ensure that any already sold data is destroyed. It also proposes to create a class of plaintiffs, including AT&T customers living in California since 2011, and seek damages for millions of customers since then.
- “The facts don’t support this lawsuit, and we will fight it,” an AT&T spokesperson said in a statement. “Location-based services like roadside assistance, fraud protection, and medical device alerts have clear and even life-saving benefits. We only share location data with customer consent. We stopped sharing location data with aggregators after reports of misuse.”
AT&T isn’t the first telecom company to face this type of lawsuit. A Motherboard investigation showed that T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon were also hit with a lawsuit for all selling access to the real-time location of their customers’ phones.