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Senators Urge Inquiry Into Cell Carrier Location Data Practices

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For years wireless cell carriers have sold off consumer location data to everyone from urban planners to marketers without much in the way of oversight. Every so often that lack of oversight becomes painfully clear as we just saw with the Securus and Locationsmart scandal, which exposed the location data of roughly 200 million US and Canadian wireless consumers. Both companies buy real-time access to this data from cell carriers, but a lack of oversight resulted in access to this data being routinely abused. ulted in access to this data being routinely abused. Click for full size While the Communications Act of 1996 requires carriers and companies to safeguard the information and to get users’ consent before disclosing it with anyone else, companies routinely find way to tap dance over and around these dated rules. A few Senators would like to see this lax oversight change. Representative Frank Pallone and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel are calling for hearings to investigate just how broadly wireless carriers share and sell consumer location data, and whether their privacy and security practices can be improved. Wireless carriers have long denied that they need oversight; Verizon Wireless once insisting that "public shame" was all that's necessary to keep the company on its best behavior. “The issues raised by this incident mirrors the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal and similarly must be closely scrutinized,” Pallone wrote to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden. "A hearing on how this information was made available is necessary to better understand whether the privacy protections in the Communications Act were violated and whether Congress needs to take action to ensure users’ data are protected." "Our wireless location data is being disclosed whether on not we have authorized it," Rosenworcel agreed. "That’s not right and we’ve got to get to the bottom of this and fix what’s wrong." So far, most major wireless carriers are refusing to even acknowledge they do business with LocationSmart, the company at the heart of this latest privacy scandal.

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