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AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon promise to stop selling your location data

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Sen. Kamala HarrisSen. Kamala HarrisMario Anzuoni/Reuters

  • AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have all announced plans to cease the sale of real-time location sharing to third parties.
  • The development follows an investigation conducted by Vice’s Motherboard where a bounty hunter was able to track down a reporter’s phone by using just a phone number. 
  • Senators and policy makers are now calling for increased legislation on the carriers and have called the practice a breach of national security. 

Amid increasing pressure from federal lawmakers, three of the major US wireless carriers announced plans to end the sale of location data sharing after a report by Motherboard showed just how easy it was for a bounty hunter to track a reporter’s phone.

AT&T said Thursday, two days after the report was published, that it will stop selling all location data from mobile phones to brokers beginning in March. T-Mobile chief executive John Legere said in a tweet that it will “completely” end “location aggregator work” in two months as well. As for Verizon, it too will cease its four remaining location-sharing agreements, according to a statement to The Washington Post. 

Both AT&T and Verizon said there will be an exception for useful services that, for instance, help customers with roadside assistance or fraud protection, but only after the user gives permission.

In the Motherboard investigation, a reporter gave a bounty hunter $300 to discover the real-time location of a phone, which was tracked down in Queens, New York by just using its T-Mobile phone number.

The investigation concluded that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint all sell customer location data in the unregulated black market via data brokers. Data brokers collect information on individuals, most of the time without their knowledge, and distribute it to third-party entities in exchange for money. 

Senators, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) all made statements this week urging Congress to pass legislation to ensure location-data sales come to a halt. On Twitter, Jessica Rosenworcel, a commissioner for the FCC, called for an investigation into the controversial practice to happen “stat” on Jan. 8 on Twitter.

“The FCC needs to investigate,” Rosenworcel said Wednesday on MSNBC. “This entire ecosystem needs oversight.”

However, these recent demands from lawmakers come nearly seven months after Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile originally pledged to stop providing information on phone owners’ locations to data brokers. In the months since, there have been several other investigations done by news publications highlighting the persistence of the practice, including one from The New York Times, which tracked users doing their usual routines.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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