FCC Fines Major iPhone Carriers $200 Million for Illegally Sharing Location Data


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has fined the four major US mobile carriers – AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon – a combined total of nearly $200 million for allegedly sharing customers’ location data without their consent.

To be precise:

  • Sprint and T-Mobile, now merged into T-Mobile, have been fined $12 million and $80 million, respectively.
  • Verizon has been fined almost $47 million.
  • AT&T has been fined $57 million.

The FCC investigation found that the carriers sold access to this data to “aggregators,” who then resold it to third-party location-based service providers. The FCC accuses the carriers of attempting to avoid responsibility for obtaining customer consent by passing it on to these third parties. The agency also claims that even after being notified of the issue, the carriers failed to limit data access.

The fines vary depending on how long each carrier sold access to customer location information without safeguards and how many entities were given access. Due to their responses to the initial investigation, the fines for T-Mobile and Verizon were lower than initially proposed by the FCC.

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. 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.

said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

The FCC investigation started after reports on the issue appeared in various media outlets, including a 2019 article by journalist Joseph Cox in Motherboard. 

Initially, plans for the fines were announced in 2020, but a final decision was delayed due to a lack of a fifth commissioner at the FCC.

All three carriers facing fines have indicated their intention to appeal the FCC’s decision. 

  • AT&T claims the FCC’s action is “without legal or factual merit” and argues they are being unfairly held responsible for another company’s violation of their contract. 
  • Verizon says that they took swift action when unauthorized access occurred and that the issue involved an outdated program discontinued years ago. 
  • T-Mobile declined to comment.

More here.

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