The FCC has reportedly proposed fines totaling more than $200 million against the largest wireless carriers in the United States over the sharing of customers’ location information with outside parties without data safeguards.
Axios reports that the Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC, announced this week that the commission has proposed fines totaling over $200 million for the largest wireless carriers in the United States over the sharing of customers’ location data with third parties without propers safeguards being put in place.
The penalties reflect the FCC’s assessment that the wireless carriers broke the law by sharing customers’ real-time location data which in some cases made its way to bounty hunters, according to Motherboard. The carriers can challenge the fines before they’re finalized and were not divvied up evenly amongst the companies. The FCC stated that the fines were calculated based on the length of time the company sold customer location information and the number of companies it sold the data to.
T-Mobile faces the largest fine of more than $91 million which the company plans to dispute, stating that it terminated its location aggregator program in February 2019 after “ensuring that valid and important services were not adversely impacted.” AT&T’s fine is roughly $57 million, Verizon faces about $48 million, and Sprint’s is about $12 million.
The FCC will have to cote again to finalize the fines after the carriers respond and the Justice Department is tasked with collecting the money if the company’s don’t pay voluntarily. “We took decisive actions to protect American consumers, and we are confident in the balance we struck in this case,” Pai said at the FCC’s press conference Friday.
Democrats objected to how the fines were calculated with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) calling the fines “comically inadequate.” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel accused the FCC of discounting the fines stating that: “The FCC’s investigation is a day late and a dollar short.” Commissioner Geoffrey Starks also criticized the calculation of the fines stating “We should’ve had a consumer-based remedy here,” adding that the FCC should have investigated how many consumers were affected by the wireless carriers. “But we didn’t investigate that way and so I object,” said Starks.