FCC fines wireless carriers for selling customer location data

The FCC has proposed over $200 million in fines against AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon for sharing real-time location data of their customers to third parties. The FCC investigation found that some carriers continued to share subscriber location data even after telling members of Congress that they would stop such practices. 

Last year, Motherboard reported that wireless companies sell their customer location data to aggregator companies. The aggregator companies then resell the information to third parties, some of whom in turn sell them to bail bondsmen, landlords, credit check companies, and other entities.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel voted against the fines that were a day late and a dollar short. "The FCC kept consumers in the dark for nearly two years after we learned that wireless carriers were selling our location information to shady middlemen,” said Rosenworcel. “There are more than 270 million smartphones in service in the United States and this practice put everyone using them at a safety risk. The agency proposes a $40,000 fine for the violation of our rules—but only on the first day. For every day after that, it reduces to $2,500 per violation."


FCC Probe Finds Mobile Carriers Didn’t Safeguard Customer Location Data (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 27, 2020) 

FCC proposes fining big four carriers $200 million-plus (Multichannel, Feb. 28, 2020)

Wireless carriers caught red-handed selling customers’ location data (Speed Matters, Jan. 17, 2019)