FCC says wireless carriers broke law by selling location data

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai told lawmakers Friday that the agency’s investigation into consumer location data found that one or more wireless carriers appear to have violated federal law.

Pai did not specify which carriers were implicated or what specific laws were broken, but he revealed the findings in letters to lawmakers addressing their concerns about carriers selling real-time location data.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), who had pressed the FCC to conclude its investigation into location data sharing without user consent, was one of the letter recipients.

“Following our longstanding calls to take action, the FCC finally informed the Committee today that one or more wireless carriers apparently violated federal privacy protections by turning a blind eye to the widespread disclosure of consumers’ real-time location data,” Pallone said in a statement Friday. “This is certainly a step in the right direction, but I’ll be watching to make sure the FCC doesn’t just let these lawbreakers off the hook with a slap on the wrist.”

The FCC investigation was opened after a 2018 report in The New York Times detailing how service providers were giving data to third party aggregators.