Feb 27, 2020 - Technology

FCC to propose fining wireless carriers for location sharing

FCC commissioners, with chairman Ajit Pai at left, testify before a House committee in Dec. 2019. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The FCC plans to propose fines against wireless carriers totaling roughly $200 million for improperly sharing customers' location information with outside parties, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: Lawmakers and others have been calling for agency action for over a year after revelations that location data from AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint made its way to a resale market used by bounty hunters.

Details: The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the four major carriers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint — would face proposed fines from the FCC, although the companies will be able to challenge the fines before they can be finalized.

  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) raised alarm bells in 2018 that wireless companies were sharing customers' location data with a phone service provider to prisons that allowed its clients to track cell phone locations.
  • Wyden called the proposed fines "comically inadequate" in a statement Thursday.
  • "Based on today’s news reports, it seems clear Chairman Pai has failed to protect American consumers at every stage of the game — this issue only came to light after my office and dedicated journalists discovered how wireless companies shared Americans’ locations willy nilly," Wyden said.

What's next: The proposed penalties are expected to be made public Friday. The agency and the wireless companies declined comment.

Go deeper

FCC seeks $200M from top wireless carriers over location data flap

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Federal Communications Commission proposed fines totaling more than $200 million against the nation's biggest wireless carriers for sharing customers' location information with outside parties without proper safeguards, Chairman Ajit Pai said Friday.

Why it matters: The proposed penalties reflect the FCC's assessment that the carriers broke the law by sharing customers' real-time location data, which Motherboard reported made its way to bounty hunters in some cases.

ISPs promise FCC they won't shut off service during pandemic

FCC chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

The Federal Communications Commission obtained promises from several of the nation's broadband providers that they will not cut off internet service to Americans who can't pay their bills during the coronavirus crisis, agency chairman Ajit Pai said Friday.

The big picture: Americans will rely on home internet access to continue to work, study and in some cases, obtain telehealth services as the coronavirus pushes more people to quarantine themselves.

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