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The House Committee requests an emergency FCC briefing after reporting telephone location data abuse

Photo: Getty / Justin Sullivan

In response to this week's reports on the unauthorized use of consumers' phone location data, House Democrats have moved to request an emergency information meeting for staff with the Federal Communications Commission. Evaluate your progress in dealing with a problem that first arose eight months ago.

Earlier this week, Motherboard published the results of a covert investigation, revealing for the first time a black market channel for phone location data accumulated by T-Mobile and its main competitors. The data was sold to "location aggregators" who generally serve marketing agencies and various emergency services. The report also described how the data, which the application of the law would typically require an order to obtain, were offered by a third-party company to rescue the bond agents, who in turn had been using them to capture the criminals and suspects of private information that was not authorized by the telephone companies that collect it.

In a letter addressed to the FCC chief, Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative Frank Pallone Jr., requested an emergency briefing to discuss the legal dilemma, which arose from first time in May 2018. The FCC was last notified year after the problems of Sen. Ron Wyden, as detailed by the New York Times, who discovered that private location data were being channeled to enforcement officials the law through extralegal transactions involving a firm with access to the private information of millions of cell phone users.

"Bad actors can use location information to track the physical movements of individuals without their knowledge or consent," reads Pallone's letter to Pai. "If recent reports detailing the cheap, accurate and easy accessibility of legally protected and real-time location data are true, we must work expeditiously to address these public safety concerns. If we do not, the privacy and security of all people who subscribe to the wireless telephony service of certain operators, including government officials, military personnel, victims of domestic violence and law enforcement officials. , they can be compromised. "

Pallone also accused the commission of "dragging its feet to protect consumers," saying the FCC should take immediate steps to ensure that wireless service providers are not allowing "unbridled disclosure of real-time location data." . The FCC, chairman of the committee, said He should also take legal action against any telephone company that has violated the agency's rules "and the trust of its customers."

Following calls from multiple Democratic lawmakers to conduct investigations at T-Mobile, AT & T and Sprint, prompted by the Motherboard report, each of the telcos rushed to publish statements saying they would soon cut all ties with companies aggregates from which they have benefited. years. A spokesperson for AT & T, for example, said: "In light of recent reports about the misuse of location services, we have decided to eliminate all location aggregation services," adding, "even those with clear benefits for the consumer".

So far, Democrats have been largely unable to supervise the FCC of the Trump administration. That changed this month when the party took control of the House of Representatives. The agency is preparing to be bombarded by questions from the Democrats, whom Pai has largely ignored for the past two years.

The FCC is among the agencies that have been significantly affected by the closure of the government. All business before the agency has been arrested, except as deemed necessary for "the protection of life and property."

Read the complete Pallone letter here.

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