Get daily Westford text alerts by subscribing here.
U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) successfully amended the Fiscal Year 2020 Financial Services & General Government appropriations bill (H.R. 3351) on June 26. Rep. Trahan’s amendment would compel the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide an update into results from its investigation into the sale of geolocation data by wireless carriers to third party location aggregators, which puts the personal security and lives of consumers at risk. Congress first directed the FCC to conduct this investigation over a year ago. The amended version of H.R. 3351 was passed by the House on Wednesday June 26, 2019.
“It’s been over a year since Congress directed the FCC to investigate the sale of geolocation data by wireless carriers to third parties. Location data has been sold through a supply chain with little oversight, often leading to this information ending up in the hands of bad actors. For just a few dollars, stalkers and predatory abusers can buy geolocation information to prey on unsuspecting victims — a reality that should set off alarm bells nationwide. Every day that the FCC delays reporting their findings from this investigation puts consumers’ personal security at greater risk. The FCC must act swiftly to remedy their lack of enforcement and transparency regarding this investigation,”said Trahan.
Mobile phones are in constant communication with nearby cell phone towers that provide wireless carriers with data on your approximate location. The FCC is responsible for enforcing federal law by restricting how and when carriers may share certain consumer information, including your location data. Despite laws put in place to protect consumer data, the sheer volume of location data tracked, disclosed, and repurposed is tremendous.
Geolocation data has been sold through a complex supply chain with little oversight, ending up in the hands of private industries ranging from salesmen, bail bondsmen, and bounty hunters, which in turn resell this data to the black market. This raises serious concerns because stalkers, abusive predators, and criminals have used this information for spying capabilities. For just a few dollars, anyone can access this information to stalk and surveille an ordinary individual.
In response to congressional inquiry, the FCC convened an investigation into this issue over a year ago. Today, the progress and status of this investigation remains unclear. Trahan’s amendment highlights the urgent need for the FCC to act on its lack of enforcement and transparency in this process, and its responsibility to protect the American public from these grave threats.