More details have emerged from the Motherboard investigation into carriers selling their customers’ real-time location data, including assisted GPS (“A-GPS”) data intended only for emergency services. The reports are shocking and illustrate both a brazen disregard for consumer privacy on the part of the companies involved and the disturbing, unregulated behavior of the data brokerage industry. The Federal Communications Commission, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, needs to act immediately to enforce what appears to be a clear violation of the FCC’s rules against the selling of A-GPS data with third parties. In addition, Congress must pass comprehensive privacy legislation that forces the data broker industry out of the shadows and stops the persistent misuse of data at the expense of consumer privacy.
Imagine you’re facing an emergency and you need a paramedic, fireman, or police officer, but don’t have a cellular phone available to call 9-1-1, or you do call 9-1-1 but don’t know or cannot communicate your location, and dispatcher cannot trace it. For many Americans this is a very frightening reality. Many low-income people cannot afford cell phones, and are unable to contact emergency services without a landline connection.
This week, Public Knowledge and 16 other organizations sent a letter to the FCC Commissioners urging them to consider and resolve privacy concerns when they vote on “E911” wireless location accuracy later this month.
Today is a step forward for the 303 million people residing the in U.S. who depend on some kind of phone service for their personal, business, and emergency communications. This morning the Federal Communication Commission voted to move forward on two proposals that examine the future of the phone network and 911 emergency services. This vote builds on the FCC’s bipartisan, unanimous consensus around core network values that include public safety, universal access, competition, and consumer protection.