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.
At today’s House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Communications & Technology Subcommittee hearing on protecting the Open Internet, Republican members announced they have introduced or will introduce several pieces of legislation aimed at prohibiting anti-competitive and harmful broadband-provider practices. While we await the introduced language on some of these bills, the content and context shared to date signals that they will fall far short of ensuring the Federal Communications Commission has the necessary oversight authority over broadband providers to protect consumers, promote competition, and close the digital divide.
On Friday, Petitioners (including Public Knowledge) finally got to make their case in court that the Federal Communications Commission’s reckless abdication of responsibility over broadband was also illegal. For about five hours, in the ceremonial courtroom of the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, in front of D.C. Circuit Judges Millett, Williams, and Wilkins, attorneys for Petitioners, for the FCC, and for intervenors on both sides got a grilling in a court that has become a regular forum for disputes over the status of broadband and the lawfulness of net neutrality rules.
Today, Public Knowledge, as part of a broad coalition of petitioners, presented oral arguments demanding repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s December 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom Order before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Public Knowledge filed as a petitioner.
In December 2017, the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Ajit Pai voted to repeal net neutrality rules enacted two years earlier. While 83 percent of Americans support net neutrality and opposed the reversal, broadband providers unsurprisingly supported it. Many said they would not use the repeal as an opportunity to discriminate among internet content -- but now there are no rules stopping them from doing exactly that.