FCC fines mobile carriers $200mil for illegally sharing location data

The carriers said they intend to appeal the fines.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has fined AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint a total of $200 million for illegally sharing customers’ location data without consent.

T-Mobile received the largest fine of $80 million, followed by AT&T with a fine of over $57 million, Verizon with a fine of almost $7 million and Sprint with a $12 million fine.


Driving the news: Four years ago the FCC made initial allegations that the wireless carriers were not protecting location data, leading to the fines that were announced on Monday. 

  • The FCC stated that the carriers’ initial failure was compounded when they continued to sell access to location information without adequate safeguards even after being made aware of the ineffective safeguards.
  • The FCC’s fine is part of its efforts to ensure carriers fulfill their obligations as stewards of sensitive customer data.

The other side: The carriers pushed back on the allegations and said they will challenge the fines. 

  • The carriers claim that the program allowing third-party aggregator access to location-based services was discontinued over five years ago.
  • Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile stressed their commitment to customer data security and their support for the FCC’s consumer protection efforts but maintained that the FCC’s order is erroneous.

What they’re saying: “Our communications providers have access to some of the most sensitive information about us,” said FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. “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.” 

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