Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai rejected a Democratic lawmaker’s request to immediately address a privacy scandal involving wireless carriers, saying it could wait until after the government shutdown ends.
A motherboard study published last week found that T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are still selling their mobile customers’ real-time location information to third-party data brokers, despite promises in May 2018 to stop the controversial practice.
House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (DN.J.) asked Pai for an “emergency statement” to explain why the FCC “has not ended the unauthorized disclosure of wireless transmissions of consumers’ location data,” and for an update on “what actions the FCC has taken to address this issue to date.” “
Pai’s FCC may take action, despite the 2017 repeal of the Commission’s wireless privacy rules. Phone transmissions are required by law to protect “Customer Non-Network Information (CPNI),” and the FCC’s definition of CPNI including location data.
“Emergency briefing is necessary in the interest of public safety and national security, so it cannot wait until President Trump decides to reopen the government,” Pallone wrote to Pai, noting that “(b)advertisers can use location information to track individuals. ‘ physical movements without their knowledge or consent.
“It is not a threat to security,” according to the FCC
Pai disagrees with Pallone, it turns out.
“Today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai refused to brief Energy and Commerce Commission officials on real-time tracking of phone(s) location,” Pallone said in a statement. yesterday’s statement. “In a phone conversation today, your staff said these outrageous actions are not the threat to the safety of human life or property that the FCC will address during Trump’s shutdown.”
Pai’s office defended the decision when contacted by Ars today. The FCC is “investigating the handling of wireless transmissions of location information,” an FCC spokesman said. “Unfortunately, we needed to stop that investigation earlier this month due to a setback in funding, and at the direction of our expert lawyers, the staff working on this case is currently on furlough. Of course, when the Council comes. able to resume normal operations, the investigation will continue. “
Pai’s decision was criticized by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who is part of the FCC’s Democratic minority.
“Your wireless phone location data is being sold by shady companies that you don’t give permission to track you,” Rosenworcel wrote in a paper tweet. “That is a matter of personal and national security. There is no law stopping the @FCC from meeting with Congress to discuss this now. It needs an investigation.”
The FCC is mostly closed during the shutdown. Some of the applications that face the public such as consumer complaints center it is not available online, although the Network Reporting Program and other programs are is still availableand some councilors are still working.
Rosenworcel introduced himself to Congress, but, “as a junior member of the FCC, he did not have the authority to direct resources in the Commission,” Pallone said.
Pai has stopped paying tweets during the shutdown, mostly about non-FCC issues. On January 3, he tweeted that “the FCC will suspend most operations this afternoon. We will continue to work on auctions (spectrum) & issues important to the safety of life & property.”
Pai also responded to a tweet suggesting that broadcasters could “run through Carlin’s list of swear words” on live TV while the FCC is closed. “I will be on the job for that amount of time and the statute of limitations is still long enough…so I would advise against any attempt to &$^#*%!” Pai refused.
Pallone argued that immediate action on attacks on consumers’ privacy is essential for the security of the United States. “There is nothing in the law that should prevent the President personally from meeting about this serious threat that could allow criminals to track the location of police officers on patrol, victims of domestic abuse, or foreign enemies to track the military personnel on American soil,” Pallone. tell.
Bad publicity for mobile carriers has been affected despite the FCC’s inaction. AT&T and T-Mobile last week agreed to stop sharing location data by March.