The United States Federal Communication Commission is expected to propose fining the big four wireless carriers in the U.S. $200 million in total for improperly sharing real-time customer location data.
Reuters reports the proposed fines for AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint could be announced as soon as Friday. The carriers would have the opportunity to challenge the fines before they become final. The amount charged to each provider could change, possibly even increasing.
The FCC in January confirmed that one or more wireless carriers violated federal law by sharing real-time consumer location information with third-party data services.
Major wireless carriers are said to have sold subscriber geolocation data to third-party companies like LocationSmart and Zumigo. Those companies then passed it along to bounty hunters, bail bondsmen, and more.
The FCC launched an investigation into the practices following an accusation by the U.S. Committee on Energy and Commerce in November 2019 that the FCC failed “in its duty to enforce the laws Congress passed to protect consumers’ privacy.”
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in January it was a “shame” the FCC took so long to act on what she called reports that “shady middlemen could sell your location within a few hundred meters based on your wireless phone data.” She added, “It’s chilling to consider what a black market could do with this data.”