FTC Slams Phone Companies With Fines For Illegally Selling Data

FTC Slams Phone Companies With Fines For Illegally Selling Data

Tyler Cross Tyler Cross
Published on: May 1, 2024

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) slammed major wireless carriers with hefty fines for illegally selling customer data.

Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint are facing roughly $200 million in fines for selling customer data without consent and not providing customers a method to opt out of the data selling or protect themselves from actions taken by the recipients of the data.

During the Trump administration, the FCC Enforcement Bureau was tasked with researching these four corporations. A multi-year-long investigation found that these companies illegally harvested data from customers and sold them to third parties.

The FCC reported that the data wound up in the hands of bounty hunters, bail-bond companies, and other “shady actors.” In many documented cases, the customer had not given consent for their information to be shared with these extra companies.

Unfortunately, none of the four changed their policies or presented any safeguards to consumers after learning that numerous unscrupulous actors gained unauthorized access to user data.

“News reports revealed that the largest wireless carriers in the country were selling our real-time location information to data aggregators, allowing this highly sensitive data to wind up in the hands of bail-bond companies, bounty hunters, and other shady actors. This ugly practice violates the law,” explains Jessica Rosenworcel, chairwoman for the FCC.

By law, companies must obtain consent from users to harvest and sell data as well as identify exactly what their data is being used for. According to the FCC, each of the four companies blatantly violated these laws, leading to their massive fines.

AT&T faces a fine of $57 million while Verizon faces a fine of roughly $47 million. Since the investigation began, T-Mobile and Sprint merged into one company, leading to conjoined fines of $93 million.

While the fines aren’t crippling to these phone carrier companies, it sets a precedent for the FCC to crack down further on tech companies violating data handling laws.

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