FCC explores cellphone privacy

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Telecommunications companies are required to protect the personal information of their customers, and the FCC has the authority to enforce that obligation.

In its public notice, the FCC noted that in recent months, several lawmakers criticized cellphone companies for their use of "Carrier IQ," a software that collected data on how customers used their smartphones.

The companies said they only used the software to collect general information about the performance of their phones and networks. But lawmakers questioned whether Carrier IQ gave companies access to the phone numbers consumers dialed, the contents of their text messages, the websites they visited, their search queries and even their locations. 

The FCC last examined mobile privacy issues in 2007, and the commission said its record on the issue is "badly out of date."

The agency asked for comment on how much choice consumers have over data collection, whether companies should design their software to better protect privacy and whether there is anything the commission can do to encourage better privacy practices.