FCC Dem demands info on location sharing by phone carriers

FCC Dem demands info on location sharing by phone carriers

A Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is demanding information from wireless companies about their location data practices.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel sent letters to AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile on Wednesday, a year after the GOP-led agency first launched an investigation into the industry’s sharing of consumers’ location data.

“The FCC needs to do more to protect the privacy and security of American consumers,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “It needs to do more to provide the public with basic information about what is happening with their real-time location information. That’s why I’m taking steps to ensure for the public that carriers are living up to their commitments to protect their customers’ most sensitive information, because this agency has failed to do so to date."

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A spokesperson for Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in an email, "The investigation is active and ongoing." 

Over the past year, investigative reporters have shined a light on the industry’s sharing of location data with third-party brokers, and how easy it is to obtain that data.

Earlier this year Motherboard was able to track a cell phone’s location by giving a bounty hunter the phone number and $300 to purchase the information off a data broker.

All of the major providers have vowed to end their partnerships with data brokers.

“We committed to end the aggregator services in March, which we did," an AT&T spokesperson told The Hill.

"We were first to take action when these issues surfaced last Summer. We followed through with our pledge and have fully terminated our location aggregator arrangements," Verizon spokesman Rich Young said in a statement. "We're happy to talk about what we've done in this area with the Commissioner."

Sprint and T-Mobile did not respond when asked for comment.

“Accordingly, I appreciate your decision to end these location aggregation services by May 31,” Rosenworcel wrote in her letter to Sprint. “To that end, I kindly request that you provide an update on your efforts to meet this timeline. Please also confirm whether the company will end arrangements to sell assisted or augmented GPS data by that date.”

Updated at 5:19 p.m.