Fcc Proposes Fines For Phone Companies That Shared User Data

February 28, 2020 - 10:54 am

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Communications Commission has proposed roughly $200 million in fines combined for the country's four major phone companies for improperly disclosing customers' real-time location.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said during a news conference Friday that the fines amounted to $91 million for T-Mobile, $57 million for AT&T, $48 million for Verizon and $12 million for Sprint. More details would be released later Friday. The carriers can object to the proposed fines, which could change.

Location data makes it possible to identify the whereabouts of nearly any phone in the U.S. The carriers had apparently allowed outside companies to pinpoint the location of wireless devices without their owners’ knowledge or consent, according to published reports.

In a letter last month to lawmakers, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the agency had "concluded that one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal law" and that the agency would vote on proposed fines for the violations.

In a release Friday, the agency said that the fines were for the carriers “apparently selling access to their customers’ location information without taking reasonable measures to protect against unauthorized access to that information.” It also admonished the carriers for “apparently disclosing their customers’ location information, without their authorization, to a third party.”

Federal law requires that telecommunications carriers protect the confidentiality of some customer data, including location information. The FCC says that carriers must try to protect against unauthorized attempts to gain access to this data and that they or those acting on their behalf must get consent from customers before using it.