The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined the nation’s largest wireless carriers for illegally sharing access to customers’ location information without consent and without taking reasonable measures to protect that information against unauthorized disclosure.

Sprint and T-Mobile – which have merged since the investigation began – face fines of more than $12 million and $80 million, respectively. AT&T is fined more than $57 million, and Verizon is fined almost $47 million.

“Our communications providers have access to some of the most sensitive information about
us. These carriers failed to protect the information entrusted to them. Here, we are talking
about some of the most sensitive data in their possession: customers’ real-time location
information, revealing where they go and who they are,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica
Rosenworcel. “As we resolve these cases – which were first proposed by the last
Administration – the Commission remains committed to holding all carriers accountable and
making sure they fulfill their obligations to their customers as stewards of this most private
data.”

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The FCC Enforcement Bureau’s investigations of the four carriers found that each carrier sold
access to its customers’ location information to “aggregators,” who then resold access to such
information to third-party location-based service providers.

In doing so, each carrier attempted to offload its obligations to obtain customer consent onto downstream recipients of location information, which in many instances meant that no valid customer consent was obtained. This initial failure was compounded when, after becoming aware that their safeguards were ineffective, the carriers continued to sell access to location information without taking reasonable measures to protect it from unauthorized access.

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