FCC: Wireless Carriers Violated Federal Law by Sharing Consumer Location Data

One or more wireless carriers violated federal law by failing to protect sensitive customer information like real-time data location, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai confirmed today in letters sent to Congress as part of a wireless location investigation [PDF].

As noted by Bloomberg, Pai's letter comes after the U.S. Committee on Energy and Commerce in November accused the FCC of "failing in its duty to to enforce the laws Congress passed to protect consumers' privacy."

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The accusation was referring to major wireless carriers disclosing real-time consumer location information to third-party data services, with data services then selling that sensitive info to a variety of companies without customer consent.

The location selling practices surfaced last year after Motherboard reported that Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile were selling subscriber geolocation data to third-party companies like LocationSmart and Zumigo, with those companies then passing it along to bounty hunters, bail bondsmen, and more.

The FCC's letter confirms that one or more wireless carriers violated the law by sharing location data with third-party services, though it does not specify which carriers have done so. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have all been questioned about their data selling practices in the past.

Pai says that he's committed to ensuring that carriers comply with the Communications Act and the FCC's rules, and the carriers that have been found in violation of the law could be facing fines.

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Top Rated Comments

justperry Avatar
57 months ago

Only hope these wireless carriers get a massive fine.
Problem is, they only raise prices...again.

Losing their license after not complying with laws would go much farther.

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1st time: get a warning
2nd time: fine of 10% of annual [S]profit[/S] revenue
3rd time: fine of 50% of annual [S]profit[/S] revenue
4th time: fine of 100% of annual [S]profit[/S] revenue
5th time: lose license
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Doctor Q Avatar
57 months ago

You said it, that was my very first thought. The fine has to hurt in order for it to bring about a change in behavior. A $25,000,000 fine would just a rounding error for some of those companies.
I think a $1000 fine would be enough. Just make sure it's applied per customer per day.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mity Avatar
57 months ago

Only hope these wireless carriers get a massive fine.

Problem is, they only raise prices...again.

Losing their license after not complying with laws would go much farther.

-----

1st time: get a warning
2nd time: fine of 10% of annual profit
3rd time: fine of 50% of annual profit
4th time: fine of 100% of annual profit
5th time: lose license
I would also add prison terms for executives.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Justind Avatar
57 months ago
So where do I sign up for the law suite?
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
I7guy Avatar
57 months ago
Only hope these wireless carriers get a massive fine.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
luvbug Avatar
57 months ago
Any fine will be a tiny fraction of what they already made from selling the data, which is why our "government regulators" have no sway over what big business is doing (because they don't intend to; it's just a game).

Who, me? I'm no cynic!
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)