The Federal Communications Commission has approved a proposal to fine T-Mobile, AT&T and two other cellphone carriers for selling location data companies to over 200 million customers that allow it to be misused by rogue law enforcement officials and others.
The FCC announced Friday the largest fines Over the years, this represents a major step forward for a company whose chairman, under President Trump, has tried to move lightly on industrial control.
The commission took over almost two years later The first complaint Get to this point about practice. The company is taking action after repeated reports of data abuse – and many companies have severely restricted the practice even after months of access to personal data continue to sell.
Ajit Pai, F.C.C. The chairman said on Friday that the company would seek more than $ 91 million from T-Mobile, $ 57 million from AT&T, $ 48 million from Verizon and $ 12 million from Sprint. The company learned that carriers violated a section of the Telecommunications Act to protect the privacy of their customers’ call information.
“We have taken decisive steps to protect American customers and are confident of the balance we have made,” he said at a press conference after the agency’s regular open meeting.
The Democrats, two of the agency’s five commissioners, objected to the amount of time they spent before the F.C.C. Among other things, action has taken place.
“It took about two years for us to propose this fine,” Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosneursel, who voted against the measure, said in an interview, “It is not working on an urgent basis, and the public does not understand the scope of the risk.”
The FCC’s recommendations are not the final word on how much companies will pay. A spokeswoman for T-Mobile said the company is using the FTC. It called it “debating the decisions.” Investigations, including penalties, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from other agencies, which also had the opportunity to compete in the search.
Location data sales have become a hot business as smartphones are expanding and technology is making their search space clearer. Information is valuable to marketers, law enforcement, and even investment companies because it can provide published details about people’s daily lives, such as where they live, what stores they visit frequently, and what doctors visit.
Trade in location data is largely out of control. The FCC’s move is subject to more stringent regulations than just telecommunications technology companies, making it possible for small application makers like Google to tech giants, from firms to GPS, Wi-Fi, and other signals to a large amount of data without a specific law on what they can do. Collects and uses.
The goal of cellphone carriers was to gain a number of parts of the business by dealing with so-called location aggregators, intermediary companies that provide other business information. Cellular network data is often less precise than application data, but it is almost always available and covers a large portion of the population.
To protect privacy, carriers relied on a system of agreements that would require the consent of customers of location companies, for example by responding to a text message or pressing a button on an application. However the carriers failed to catch multiple companies and the people who followed the customers without their permission.
The FCC’s investigation began after the articles The system poses a privacy risk to the New York Times and elsewhere. In 2018, the Times reported that the information was finally on its way to law enforcement, including an officer who used it to track people without a warrant.
Subsequently, companies said they would severely limit the practice, but in the early 20’s the Motherboard Technology website showed that carriers still sell data and that it is finally available. Charity hunter.
Later in the year, the companies responded to an FCC question, saying the companies commissioner had stopped selling data.
Fcc According to three people familiar with the agency’s findings, the companies are fineing them based on how long the practice has continued since the initial report, which has not yet been released.
The commission and Capitol Hill’s privacy buzzers have objected to the fine, saying they were too late and too low. Fcc Despite being an unusually large penalty by the standards, the proposed rule is modest compared to companies’ earnings, which was more than $ 350 billion last year.
Senator Ron Wadden, an Oregon Democrat who first raised concerns about data sharing and has repeatedly questioned companies and the F.C.C. A statement Thursday on the issue said the amount was “jokingly inadequate” to prevent future privacy violations.