The nation’s big four carriers felt free to broker their customers’ cellphone location data to third parties for years in order to make an easy secondhand buck off of the people who already pay them to deliver expensive wireless internet to their expensive devices. Turns out that the FCC isn’t happy with their behavior and, according to Reuters’s sources, may be prepared to levy an eight-digit fine against the networks.
The number is said to be “at least $200 million” but could be adjusted between now and when the FCC announces its proposal to fine the companies — they will be able to contest the fines.
The FCC was pushed to investigate AT&T and Verizon in 2018 after media reports of their customers’ real-time cellphone location data publicly exposed from a vulnerability in a piece of security software from vendor Securus. That company, in turn, got their data from LocationSmart — a broker that worked with the country’s top two carriers.
T-Mobile was later investigated by Motherboard for brokering data which got brokered again to bail bonds providers and auto dealers.
The carriers say that they weren’t aware of their clients violating their terms of service and would tighten up their policies.
Last month, FCC chairman Ajit Pai confirmed to Congress that his agency’s investigations had concluded that “one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal law.” Class action lawsuits on this matter are also in motion against the four carriers.