The other shoe is about to drop for wireless carriers that violated customer privacy.
On Friday, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai, a Donald Trump appointee, informed the House of Representatives that an investigation into the unauthorized sale of users’ real-time location data had concluded. The inquiry, which began in early 2019 following numerous investigative reports into the matter, found at least one carrier broke federal law.
“Following our longstanding calls to take action, the FCC finally informed the Committee today that one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal privacy protections by turning a blind eye to the widespread disclosure of consumers’ real-time location data,” said Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chairman to the Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement.
“This is certainly a step in the right direction, but I’ll be watching to make sure the FCC doesn’t just let these lawbreakers off the hook with a slap on the wrist.”
At the center of the investigation are all four major U.S. carriers: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. It is unclear at this time which groups will be penalized, and what that penalty will look like. Further documentation on the specifics of the violation is forthcoming.
In 2018, original reporting from outlets like Motherboard and The New York Times shed light on the effect location data sales could have on consumers — ranging from targeted ads to physical danger. At the time of reporting, class-action lawsuits on the matter are still ongoing.
AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile assured the FCC the practice had stopped the middle of 2019.