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The FCC may propose $200 million in fines for US carriers selling their users’ location data

The FCC may propose $200 million in fines for US carriers selling their users’ location data
The four major US carriers have been under investigation by the FCC for a couple of years already over allegations of sharing their customers’ location data. Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, wrote in January that one or more carriers have violated the federal law, but no penalty or additional details were disclosed.

Apparently, carriers were selling access to location data for marketing and other purposes, only requiring companies to get customers’ consent in the form of a text message response or the pressing of a button in an app. However, those requirements weren’t always met by companies, which meant that the carriers showed negligence over sensitive information and this is one of the main problems that the FCC found.

Now, The New York Times reports that the penalty facing AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon is supposedly around $200 million in total. This is one of the FCC’s largest penalties in decades; however, some experts believe that this response is inadequate. The amount of $200 million could be considered insufficient compared to the amount of money the carriers might have made in selling their users’ location data.

The trade with location information is a significant privacy issue, as it concerns every American with a cell phone and it could reveal sensitive information such as doctor visits and personal relationships.

According to The New York Times, this fine is not final, as the proposal is to be made this Friday and is not yet official or accepted. However, three people who remained anonymous said that the proposal has the necessary votes.

US Senator for Oregon Ron Wyden, who was among one of the first people to bring attention to the issue with location data sharing, said on Thursday that the fines were “comically inadequate” and thus would, unfortunately, fail to stop future violations of users’ location privacy from happening. He stated on Twitter that Ajit Pai has failed to protect consumers at every turn and that he investigated the issue only after public pressure mounted.


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