Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 39° Partly Cloudy
News >  Spokane

FCC proposes fines for phone companies that shared customers’ real-time location

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 28, 2020

This photo from June 19, 2015, shows the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington. The Federal Communications Commission on Friday proposed about $200 million in fines combined for the four major U.S. phone companies for improperly disclosing customers' real-time location. (Andrew Harnik / AP)
This photo from June 19, 2015, shows the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington. The Federal Communications Commission on Friday proposed about $200 million in fines combined for the four major U.S. phone companies for improperly disclosing customers' real-time location. (Andrew Harnik / AP)
By Tali Arbel Associated Press

NEW YORK – The Federal Communications Commission has proposed roughly $200 million in fines combined for the four major U.S. 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. The companies didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

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.

After word of the fines leaked Thursday, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who had investigated the carriers, said the fines were “comically inadequate“ and wouldn’t stop phone companies from abusing Americans’ privacy. He said big companies “take reckless disregard for Americans’ personal information, knowing they can write off comparatively tiny fines as the cost of doing business.”

In a release Friday, the FCC said 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 Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.


Annual health and dental insurance enrollment period open now

 (Courtesy Washington Healthplanfinder)
Sponsored

2020 has been a stressful year for myriad reasons.