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Pallone Requests Emergency FCC Briefing on Unauthorized Disclosure of Real-Time Location Data

Jan 11, 2019
Press Release
An Emergency Briefing is Necessary in the Interest of Public Safety & National Security & Cannot Wait Until Trump Decides to Reopen the Government

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai today requesting he provide an emergency briefing to Committee staff on why the FCC has yet to end wireless carriers’ unauthorized disclosure of consumers’ real-time location data and what actions the FCC has taken to address the issue to date.  Pallone wrote that an emergency briefing is necessary in the interest of public safety and national security, and therefore cannot wait until President Trump decides to reopen the government. 

“Bad actors can use location information to track individuals’ physical movements without their knowledge or consent,” Pallone wrote to Pai.  “If recent reports detailing the cheap, accurate, and easy accessibility of legally protected, real-time location data are true, we must work expeditiously to address these public safety concerns.  If we don’t, the privacy and security of everyone who subscribes to wireless phone service from certain carriers—including government officials, military personnel, domestic violence victims, and law enforcement officials—may be compromised.”

Last May, investigative journalists and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) helped bring to light the ease with which consumers’ real-time location data was being made available to the public without the users consent.  Following those revelations, the FCC referred the allegations to its Enforcement Bureau for investigation.  In June, some wireless carriers publicly committed to addressing the issue and put an end to this unauthorized disclosure.  Yet a new report this week indicates this unfortunate practice continues.  

“The FCC once again appears to have dragged its feet in protecting consumers.  While some carriers have now recommitted to stopping such unauthorized disclosure, the public can no longer rely on their voluntary promises to protect this extremely sensitive information,” Pallone continued in his letter to Pai.  “The FCC must take immediate action to ensure no wireless carrier is allowing the rampant disclosure of real-time location data and take enforcement action against carriers that violated the Commission’s rules and the trust of their customers.”

Congress addressed this issue as part of the Communications Act of 1996, which required wireless carriers—and their vendors with whom the information is shared—to safeguard this information and to get users’ consent before disclosing it with anyone else.  Pallone wrote that the emergency briefing is necessary so the Committee can understand when the FCC will put an end to the unauthorized sharing of this data. 

Chairman Pallone’s letter is available HERE.