FCC Fines AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile And Verizon $200M For Selling Location Data

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The Federal Communications Commission is bringing the hammer down on the country’s largest mobile carriers after finding that these companies have been illegally selling customer location information. T-mobile, which also received a fine that would’ve been levied against Sprint, will pay $92 million. Meanwhile, AT&T will need to cough up $57 million, while Verizon is fined nearly $47 million.

After investigating the matter, the FCC found that these companies were selling customer location data to “aggregators.” These aggregators would then go on to sell this information to third parties. According to the FCC, the carriers were no longer able to get any meaningful consent from customers regarding all this movement of their data. It also meant that the safeguards meant to protect customer data were no longer effective.

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The FCC says that the actions taken by these companies is in violation of section 222 of the Communications Act. This law makes clear that carriers need to have safeguards in place to protect customer information. Section 222 also lays out that companies must get customer consent “before using, disclosing, or allowing access to such information.” All of these obligations remain in effect when the information is shared with third parties.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel says that “these carriers failed to protect the information entrusted to them. Here, we are talking about some of the most sensitive data in their possession: customers’ real-time location information, revealing where they go and who they are.” Rosenworcel added that the agency will continue to hold these companies accountable in respect to how they handle customer data.

This is a substantial action by the FCC, delivering fines that are more than just a slap on the wrist. Hopefully this leads to meaningful change inside these companies in how they handle customer data.