The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Friday local time that at least one U.S. telephone company violated federal law by disclosing real-time location data for customers,media reported. In a letter to several members of Congress, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai noted that the commission’s law enforcement agency came to the conclusion that any violator could face penalties.
The FCC’s enforcement agency began investigating in May 2018 after news surfaced that the operator was selling location data to a third party. It is understood that the data sold was used for purposes such as finding lost smartphones or obtaining emergency roadside assistance, but would have been used beyond customer control after selling them.
“The negligence of wireless carriers and intermediaries about the safety and privacy of Americans puts every American at risk,” Senator Ron Wyden said in announcing the launch of the investigation.
A month after the announcement, some operators said they would terminate their contracts with the gathering place company, but it was later revealed that the practice still existed.
In January 2019, U.S. lawmakers again pressed the FCC to provide answers about the sale of consumer location data.
Pai said in a letter Friday that the FCC is committed to enforcing its rules and communications law. In the coming days, he said, he will consult with other FCC commissioners about location data breaches and notify violators about the proposed penalties through the so-called “Notice of The Property for For Forfeiture.” Violators will have the opportunity to respond.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel tweeted: “Millions of Americans use wireless devices every day. They didn’t buy or sell their phone location data when they signed up to use the wireless service. But that clearly happened. Now the FCC must hold these people accountable. “