FCC launches probe into mobile carriers’ compliance with data disclosure rules

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel released the responses she received from the nation’s top mobile carriers about their data retention and privacy policies and launched a new probe into carriers’ compliance with FCC privacy rules.

Rosenworcel sent letters to the three biggest wireless carriers and 12 others in July seeking details about their mobile data sharing procedures. Their replies are posted on the FCC’s website today.

“Our mobile phones know a lot about us. That means carriers know who we are, who we call, and where we are at any given moment,” she said in today’s statement. “This information and geolocation data is really sensitive. It’s a record of where we’ve been and who we are. That’s why the FCC is taking steps to ensure this data is protected.”

To help shed light on the issue for consumers, she published the carriers’ responses on how they handle geolocation data. In addition, she asked the agency’s Enforcement Bureau to launch a new investigation into mobile carriers’ compliance with FCC rules that require carriers to fully disclose to consumers how they are using and sharing geolocation data.

If consumers have complaints about how their provider is handling their private data, they can file a complaint and the FCC will make sure their concerns are addressed, according to Rosenworcel.

In July, the FCC said its investigation was consistent with previous agency action to protect consumers’ location-based data.

At the time, Public Knowledge SVP Harold Feld said the chairwoman should be praised for conducting the inquiry in light of the long history of abuses by carriers selling sensitive information to law enforcementbounty hunters and even stalkers.

In February 2020, the FCC held the nation’s four largest wireless carriers responsible for more than $200 million in fines for selling access to their customers’ location information without taking reasonable measures to protect against unauthorized access to that information.