The Federal Communications Commission found that one or
more wireless carriers in the United States sold location data regarding its
consumers to third parties, in apparent violation of federal law.
After a 2018 investigation
by the New York Times unveiled the wireless carriers’ practice of providing
third parties with the real-time location of their customers, members of the
House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the FCC to look into the matter.
Now, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has sent a letter notifying
the House committee that the investigation is complete and has found
“apparent” violations of federal law for one or more companies.
” 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,” said Pai. “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.”
For now, the FCC will issue a “Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture” to the companies found to violate the law, which is basically a notification that they are doing something illegal. In theory, the FCC has the power to issue fines as well, but they have yet to announce any.
The original New York Times report mentioned AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon by name. Location data from their networks was used by Securus Technologies, which operates prison phones, among others. Their services were used to track down people, some of which weren’t even in trouble with the law, and without having to seek a court warrant.