Democrats Press FCC To Crack Down On Carriers Over Privacy

House Democrats are urging the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on wireless carriers that shared consumers' locations with outside companies.

“We are concerned that the Commission is shirking its obligation to enforce the Communications Act and the rules it has issued to protect consumers' privacy,” 11 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee say in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“This Committee has repeatedly urged you to act quickly to protect consumers' privacy interests, and unfortunately you have failed to do so,” they write.

The lawmakers are seeking information about the status of the FCC's investigation into wireless carriers' privacy practices. The letter comes around 10 months after the publication Motherboard reported that the largest carriers sold customers' location data to aggregators and other third parties. Motherboard's article detailed how a reporter paid a “bounty hunter” $300 to track a phone's location to a neighborhood in Queens, New York.

After the article appeared, the four major carriers said they had stopped selling location data.

The FCC has said it is investigating the carriers, but hasn't brought any public actions against them so far. The lawmakers are pressing the agency to move forward quickly.

“Time is running out since the statute of limitations gives the FCC one year to act,” they write.

In addition to the FCC investigation, the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation sued AT&T for allegedly violating a provision of the Communications Act that requires telecoms to preserve customers' privacy. That matter is pending in federal court in California.

Consumers also brought class-action complaints against the major carriers. A federal judge in Maryland recently sent those cases to arbitration.

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