FCC fines AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile $200M for selling customer location data

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2020
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Friday proposed fines against the nation's largest cellular carriers for selling access to real-time consumer geolocation data to third-party aggregators.




In total, the FCC proposes (PDF link) AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile be slapped with more than $200 million in penalties for "apparently" disclosing user location information to a third party without customer authorization.

T-Mobile faces the highest penalty with a proposed fine of more than $91 million. AT&T and Verizon face proposed fines of more than $57 million and $48 million, respectively, while Sprint faces a proposed fine of more than $12 million.

"American consumers take their wireless phones with them wherever they go. And information about a wireless customer's location is highly personal and sensitive. The FCC has long had clear rules on the books requiring all phone companies to protect their customers' personal information. And since 2007, these companies have been on notice that they must take reasonable precautions to safeguard this data and that the FCC will take strong enforcement action if they don't. Today, we do just that," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement.

In January, Pai said "one or more" U.S. carriers might be fined over illegal data practices after an investigation by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau found certain companies "apparently violated" federal law.

The data selling practices were unearthed in a series of reports in 2018. Each of the four telecoms were found to sell access to customer location information to aggregators, who in turn sold that data to law enforcement agencies, bounty hunters, tracking services and alleged stalkers, among others.

Verizon promised to end its data selling program in November 2018, a move followed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint in 2019. A subsequent drawdown took months, with all carriers cutting off the tap to aggregators in May 2019.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    Shame... T-mobile was such and good company, now they’re sprinting towards the dumpster.
    cornchipecarlseen
  • Reply 2 of 16
    How much of this am I entitled to?
    cornchipDogpersonecarlseenbloggerblogretrogusto
  • Reply 3 of 16

    In January, Pai said "one or more" U.S. carriers might be fined over illegal data practices after an investigation by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau found certain companies "apparently violated" federal law.

    Funny, if I violated Federal Law, I’d get an all expense paid trip to the Pen for a large chunk of my life. These corporations instead just get a 0.1% of their “salary” garnished... it’s like if I made $100k last year and got fined $100 for committing a “federal offense” that allowed me to make the $100k to begin with. I’d call that a work expense (hardly, at that) and just keep doing it every year. What an F-ing joke this all has become...
    viclauyyccornchipDogpersonwonkothesaneecarlseenbloggerblogjcs2305retrogustomontrosemacsdysamoria
  • Reply 4 of 16
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,856member

    In January, Pai said "one or more" U.S. carriers might be fined over illegal data practices after an investigation by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau found certain companies "apparently violated" federal law.

    Funny, if I violated Federal Law, I’d get an all expense paid trip to the Pen for a large chunk of my life. These corporations instead just get a 0.1% of their “salary” garnished... it’s like if I made $100k last year and got fined $100 for committing a “federal offense” that allowed me to make the $100k to begin with. I’d call that a work expense (hardly, at that) and just keep doing it every year. What an F-ing joke this all has become...

    This just needs to be repeated... 
    ecarlseenbloggerblogmicrobeFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 5 of 16
    mac_dog said:
    How much of this am I entitled to?
    None. How would it benefit government bureaucrats to give you money? Remember when Wells Fargo defrauded millions of customers by signing them up for services they didn't want or request? The government took $187M for themselves, and order $5M in restitution to the defrauded customers (about two dollars each). They don't care about you. They don't really even care about the corporate malfeasance (if they did, the fines would be meaningful). They just care about excuses to take money from whomever they can, with as little effort as possible. So they keep the numbers low enough that the corporations can shrug it off as a cost of doing business, consumers get screwed, and the cushy government jobs and pensions are protected. All of the important people win. Sorry that doesn't include you (or me).
    beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 6 of 16

    In January, Pai said "one or more" U.S. carriers might be fined over illegal data practices after an investigation by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau found certain companies "apparently violated" federal law.

    Funny, if I violated Federal Law, I’d get an all expense paid trip to the Pen for a large chunk of my life. These corporations instead just get a 0.1% of their “salary” garnished... it’s like if I made $100k last year and got fined $100 for committing a “federal offense” that allowed me to make the $100k to begin with. I’d call that a work expense (hardly, at that) and just keep doing it every year. What an F-ing joke this all has become...
    Well, then it's your fault for not making massive campaign contributions, hiring lobbyists, and taking care of the even less-legal forms of graft. The Telcos ponied up and are getting what they paid for. Oh, wait, you wanted a fair and just system? How on Earth would that benefit the bureaucracy? They have to maintain the lifestyle of 30-hour work weeks, cushy pensions, and revolving doors into corporate lobbying to which they have become accustomed. Can't do that if they go around biting the hands that feed them.
  • Reply 7 of 16

    In January, Pai said "one or more" U.S. carriers might be fined over illegal data practices after an investigation by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau found certain companies "apparently violated" federal law.

    Funny, if I violated Federal Law, I’d get an all expense paid trip to the Pen for a large chunk of my life. These corporations instead just get a 0.1% of their “salary” garnished... it’s like if I made $100k last year and got fined $100 for committing a “federal offense” that allowed me to make the $100k to begin with. I’d call that a work expense (hardly, at that) and just keep doing it every year. What an F-ing joke this all has become...
    The FCC doesn’t want to stop such behavior because that’s their extra income. That money should be handed back to the customer, all of it, FCC gets paid regardless.
  • Reply 8 of 16
    If the government fully enforced all of the laws and imposed appropriate fines as punishment, we’d probably barely have to pay any taxes at all. A police officer could collect a few thousand a day just fining all of the people who run the red light at the intersection near my home or honk their horns for no good reason, and think about all of the antitrust stuff and shady banking that goes on. But there would probably always be people who think the government is just “keeping it for themselves.”
    dysamoriamicrobe
  • Reply 9 of 16
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,429member

    In January, Pai said "one or more" U.S. carriers might be fined over illegal data practices after an investigation by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau found certain companies "apparently violated" federal law.

    Funny, if I violated Federal Law, I’d get an all expense paid trip to the Pen for a large chunk of my life. These corporations instead just get a 0.1% of their “salary” garnished... it’s like if I made $100k last year and got fined $100 for committing a “federal offense” that allowed me to make the $100k to begin with. I’d call that a work expense (hardly, at that) and just keep doing it every year. What an F-ing joke this all has become...
    Vote for the most anti-corporate candidate there is...
  • Reply 10 of 16
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,429member
    ecarlseen said:
    mac_dog said:
    How much of this am I entitled to?
    None. How would it benefit government bureaucrats to give you money? Remember when Wells Fargo defrauded millions of customers by signing them up for services they didn't want or request? The government took $187M for themselves, and order $5M in restitution to the defrauded customers (about two dollars each). 
    Seriously? Where do you think that money goes? Under the government’s mattress for beer and cigarettes? It goes into the system.

    if you want more consequences for corporate crime and abuse of society, vote for the most anti-corporate political candidates you can find in each election.
  • Reply 11 of 16
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,391member
    The FCC chair (and his same-party minions) is hopelessly in the tank or industry and regards consumers as less than sheep, so of course this is not a meaningful fine. Until the US grows sufficient amounts of spine to a) jail CEOs and others responsible for these criminal acts and b) issues fines that both nullify the profits made by the illegal act and slaps a really painful punitive fine on top of that, companies will continue to do things like this.

    Ask your candidates for any federal office or judgeship if they would commit to implementing that level of punishment, and vote for the ones who say yes.
    microbe
  • Reply 12 of 16
    "Proposed fines"? That is code for they will pay little if any of it ... They all make their campaign and lobbying payments to Congress and the White House so they will never pay anything close to the amounts discussed in the article. It wouldn't even be all that shocking to find out these companies paid less than 10% of the "proposed amount."Makes for a nice press release the orange guy can claim his people are protecting your privacy, but people with a brain know better. It's all for show to be converted into political advantage if possible.
    geekmee
  • Reply 13 of 16
    geekmeegeekmee Posts: 473member
    Can you say? Cost of doing business
    I am sure collectively they payed more than that in lobbying fees....Or, maybe I should say, their lobbying fees are showing a good ROI.
    edited March 2020
  • Reply 14 of 16
    sjworldsjworld Posts: 94member

    In January, Pai said "one or more" U.S. carriers might be fined over illegal data practices after an investigation by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau found certain companies "apparently violated" federal law.

    Funny, if I violated Federal Law, I’d get an all expense paid trip to the Pen for a large chunk of my life. These corporations instead just get a 0.1% of their “salary” garnished... it’s like if I made $100k last year and got fined $100 for committing a “federal offense” that allowed me to make the $100k to begin with. I’d call that a work expense (hardly, at that) and just keep doing it every year. What an F-ing joke this all has become...

    Would you like to hear a story?

    Well, it all started on a long trip through the ocean aboard the Mayflower...
  • Reply 15 of 16
    gilly33gilly33 Posts: 374member
    Pieces of shit. These companies have no damn morals. If it makes them money then let’s do it. With their bullsh*t messages about how much they care about customers. 
  • Reply 16 of 16
    blah64blah64 Posts: 990member
    dysamoria said:

    In January, Pai said "one or more" U.S. carriers might be fined over illegal data practices after an investigation by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau found certain companies "apparently violated" federal law.

    Funny, if I violated Federal Law, I’d get an all expense paid trip to the Pen for a large chunk of my life. These corporations instead just get a 0.1% of their “salary” garnished... it’s like if I made $100k last year and got fined $100 for committing a “federal offense” that allowed me to make the $100k to begin with. I’d call that a work expense (hardly, at that) and just keep doing it every year. What an F-ing joke this all has become...
    Vote for the most anti-corporate candidate there is...
    That sounds good if we only consider an issue like this one, but with major office candidates you end up taking in all the bad and infeasible with the good.
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