FCC blames shutdown on failure to investigate private data being sold by telecoms

FCC blames shutdown on failure to investigate user location data being sold by telecoms

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Last week, tech news site Motherboard published an investigation that exposed how user location data, accurate up to a few hundred meters, is being sold by the major cell phone carriers to third parties. In their investigation, MOtherboard discovered these services being used by car salesmen, property managers bail bondsmen, and bounty hunters just to name a few. All were found to be obtaining this information without any kind of warrant that police would need to obtain to be able to access this kind of user information. Motherboard’s investigation has resulted in House Democrats calling for the FCC to appear before them in response to the crisis.

Not surprisingly, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has responded by saying that not only is the sale of location data not a threat to public safety but that any further investigation into the matter has been suspended due to the government shutdown. How convenient for Mr. Pai. This is where we usually mention that before joining the FCC, Mr. Pai was a prominent attorney for Verizon, one of the carriers accused of selling user location data. Ever since the FCC rolled back the net neutrality regulations enacted by the Obama Administration, just about everything Mr. Pai has done in office has benefitted the telecoms and internet providers while claiming that it’s what’s best for consumers.

Because of his record even if the government was in full operation logic dictates that it would be highly unusual that Chairman Pai would do anything about the sale of user location data. The wholesale failure to protect consumer privacy under the watch of Chairman Pai continues unabated with little to no recourse for consumers. Maybe the special investigations that are looking into President Trump’s alleged ties to Russia also need to investigate whether or not Chairman Pai is colluding with his former telecom masters.