FCC Chairman Ajit Pai declines to brief Congressional Committee over location data controversy
The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., criticized FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today for his refusal to brief the committee on the current controversy surrounding location data. All four carriers are reportedly winding down their practice of selling their subscribers' real-time location data to third party location aggregators, who then sell the info to other firms.
According to Gizmodo, Pai was asked to appear in front of the committee on an "emergency briefing" by Chairman Pallone Jr., who said that the matter was too important to wait for the current government shutdown to end. But Pai's staff reportedly told Democrats on Monday that the shutdown precluded the FCC chairman from appearing and sharing what actions the agency has taken on behalf of consumers in this matter. According to the House committee, they were informed by Pai that the issue is "not a threat to the safety of human life or property."
In a reference to some tweets disseminated by Pai today, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said that the FCC chairman had "enough time to tweet cat videos and tired memes, but refuses to brief Congress about a real threat to every American’s security. It’s a new low for someone who has spent his tenure at the FCC refusing to do his job and stand up for American consumers."
Pai, appointed to his position in January 2017 by President Donald Trump, is being targeted by the Democrats for leading the FCC's repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality rules (and the suspicious way the FCC handled public comments related to this decision), and for the FCC's recent vote declaring text messaging to be an information service. This allows carriers to potentially block text messages that they don't agree with.