FCC Poised To Vote On Wireless Privacy Protections

The Federal Communications Commission will vote at the end of this month about whether to issue new rules requiring wireless carriers to better protect consumers' personal information -- including data about who they call, how long they talk, and geolocation.

“Millions of wireless consumers must have confidence that personal information about calls will remain secure even if that information is stored on a mobile device,” acting chair Mignon Clyburn reportedly said in a statement about the upcoming vote.

The FCC began examining the issue after news broke that software developed by Carrier IQ -- and installed in around 150 million phones -- could log users' keystrokes, capturing the contents of their SMS messages and other data. After initially stonewalling, the company eventually acknowledged that its software sometimes logs the contents of messages, but said that the data is encoded. Carrier IQ also said the logging was the result of a bug.

Still, revelations about the software's capabilities led to inquiries from lawmakers as well as legal action, including a pending class-action lawsuit.

News of the FCC's upcoming vote broke yesterday afternoon, shortly before the Guardianreported that the National Security Agency is collecting records of all Verizon customers in the U.S. (The NSA probably collects records from other carriers as well, but full details about the extent of its activities haven't yet emerged.)

However the FCC votes, the agency's decision won't affect carriers' obligations to comply with court orders. In other words, carriers will continue to turn over customers' information to the National Security Agency as long as judges issue orders to that effect.

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