FCC investigation finds ‘one or more wireless carriers’ broke federal law by selling user location data
Just about a year ago, it came to light just how easy it was to buy the real-time location data of US wireless customers via lax carrier standards, shady third-parties, and bounty hunters. Now after an “extensive investigation” the FCC has declared that “one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal law.”
The unsurprising finding was detailed in a letter sent from FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai to the US House Energy and Commerce Committee (via The Verge).
While the letter doesn’t specify which carriers were “apparently” violating federal law, Pai went on to say that he is “committed to ensuring that all entities subject to our jurisdiction comply with the Communications Act and the FCC’s rules,” with a fine and/or other consequence(s) expected to be announced in the near future.
Notably, after the initial expose by Motherboard in January last year, T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to stop selling users’ location data, while AT&T claimed innocence. However, it was later reported in May that they didn’t follow through with those promises or at least in the timeframe they said they would.
Here’s the FCC Chairman’s letter in full:
I am writing to follow up on my letter of December 3, 2019 regarding the status of the FCC’s investigation into the disclosure of consumers’ real-time location data. Fulfilling the commitment I made in that letter, I wish to inform you that the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has completed its extensive investigation and that it has concluded that one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal law.
I am committed to ensuring that all entities subject to our jurisdiction comply with the Communications Act and the FCC’s rules, including those that protect consumers’ sensitive information, such as real-time location data. Accordingly, in the coming days, I intend to circulate to my fellow Commissioners for their consideration one or more Notice(s) of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture in connection with the apparent violation(s).
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