FCC Fines Largest Wireless Carriers $200 Million For Illegally Sharing Location Information

Mobile phone with 911 emergency number over white

Carriers deny allegations, say they will fight fines…

Alleging that they illegally shared access to their customers’ location information, the nation’s largest wireless carriers were fined nearly $200 million this week by the Federal Communications Commission.  The FCC contends that the carriers sold access to location data without their customer’s consent “and continued to do so without reasonable safeguards.”

Sprint and T-Mobile TMUS -0.23%↓, which merged since the investigation started, were hit the hardest with $12 million and $80 million fines, respectively.  AT&T -0.53%↓ was fined more than $57 million, while Verizon VZ -0.36%↓ was hit with a $47 million fine.

“Our communications providers have access to some of the most sensitive information about us.  These carriers failed to protect the information entrusted to them, said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in a statement.  “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.”

While location services are critical for emergency services, the FCC contends that four of the largest U.S. wireless carriers illegally shared customers’ location information (Image: Verizon).

During its investigation, which started during the Trump administration, the FCC said that the four carriers sold customer location information to “aggregators,” who resold the data to third-party location-based service providers.  The federal agency cited public reports that indicated that a Missouri sheriff used location information, provided by Securus, to track “numerous individuals.”

Denying the allegations, the wireless carriers said they will challenge the fine.  “This industry-wide third-party aggregator location-based services program was discontinued more than five years ago after we took steps to ensure that critical services like roadside assistance, fraud protection and emergency response would not be disrupted.” said T-Mobile, in a statement.

The Forfeiture Orders are available here:


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