Ajit Pai gives carriers free pass on privacy violations during FCC shutdown

Ajit Pai gives carriers free pass on privacy violations during FCC shutdown

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai drinking from a giant coffee mug in front of an FCC seal.
Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai along with his outsized espresso mug in November 2017.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai refused a Democratic lawmaker’s request to right away tackle a privacy scandal involving wi-fi carriers, saying that it may possibly wait till after the federal government shutdown is over.

A Motherboard investigation printed final week discovered that T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are still selling their cellular clients’ real-time location info to third-party knowledge brokers, despite promises in June 2018 to cease the controversial observe.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) asked Pai for an “emergency briefing” to clarify why the FCC “has yet to end wireless carriers’ unauthorized disclosure of consumers’ real-time location data,” and for an replace on “what actions the FCC has taken to address this issue to date.”

Pai’s FCC may take motion, regardless of the 2017 repeal of the fee’s broadband privacy guidelines. Phone carriers are legally required to guard “Customer Proprietary Network Information [CPNI],” and the FCC’s definition of CPNI includes location data.

“An emergency briefing is necessary in the interest of public safety and national security, and therefore cannot wait until President Trump decides to reopen the government,” Pallone wrote to Pai, noting that “[b]ad actors can use location information to track individuals’ physical movements without their knowledge or consent.”

“Not a threat to safety,” in response to FCC

Pai didn’t agree with Pallone, it seems.

“Today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai refused to brief Energy and Commerce Committee staff on the real-time tracking of cell phone location[s],” Pallone mentioned in a statement yesterday. “In a phone conversation today, his staff asserted that these egregious actions are not a threat to the safety of human life or property that the FCC will address during the Trump shutdown.”

Pai’s resolution was criticized by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who’s a part of the FCC’s Democratic minority.

“Your wireless phone location data is being sold by shady entities that you never gave permission to track you,” Rosenworcel wrote in a tweet. “That’s a personal and national security issue. No law stops the @FCC from meeting with Congress to discuss this right now. It needs investigation.”

The FCC is generally closed during the shutdown. Some public-facing assets just like the consumer complaint center will not be accessible on-line, although the Network Outage Reporting System and sure different methods are still available, and a few fee staffers are nonetheless working.

Rosenworcel made herself obtainable to Congress, however “as a minority member of the FCC, she does not have the authority to direct resources at the Commission,” Pallone mentioned.

Pai has saved up a gradual stream of tweets during the shutdown, principally about non-FCC issues. On January three, he tweeted that “The @FCC will suspend most operations this afternoon. We’ll continue work on [spectrum] auctions & matters necessary to the protection of life & property.”

Pai additionally responded to a tweet suggesting that broadcasters can “run through Carlin’s list of swear words” on reside TV whereas the FCC is closed down. “I’ll be on the job for the duration and there’s also a sufficiently long statute of limitations… so I’d advise against trying any &$^#*%!” Pai wrote.

Pallone argued that speedy motion on carriers’ invasions of customers’ privacy is important for the safety of Americans. “There’s nothing in the law that should stop the Chairman personally from meeting about this serious threat that could allow criminals to track the location of police officers on patrol, victims of domestic abuse, or foreign adversaries to track military personnel on American soil,” Pallone mentioned.

The dangerous publicity for cellular carriers has had an impact regardless of FCC inaction. AT&T and T-Mobile final week pledged to cease the situation knowledge sharing by March.

We contacted Pai’s workplace right now to ask why it is not addressing the privacy scandal during the shutdown and whether or not it would examine after the FCC totally re-opens. We’ll replace this story if we get a response.

According to Politico, “an FCC spokesperson said the staffers involved in the agency’s probe into the handling of location data are furloughed and that ‘the investigation will continue’ when FCC funding is restored.”

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