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posted by hubie on Friday September 09 2022, @06:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the when-am-I-getting-my-privacy-law? dept.

FCC Does The Bare Minimum: Asks Wireless Carriers To Be Honest About Location Data:

It took fifteen years filled with constant scandal, but the FCC finally recently announced that it would be "cracking down on" wireless carrier abuse of consumer location data, thanks to pressure from our new post-Roe reality. This "crackdown" involves politely asking the nation's top wireless carriers to disclose what kind of location data they were collecting, and who they've been sharing and selling it to.

Wireless carriers have now shared their responses with the FCC, all of which have been posted to the agency's website:

[...] So basically the FCC is asking an industry with a history of lying about this stuff to be transparent about what they're collecting and selling, and if they're very clearly breaking fairly flimsy agency rules, they might face penalties. Someday. If those enforcements can survive an agency that's been intentionally vote gridlocked by the telecom industry.

[...] While there are some wireless carriers who claim to never collect or sell user location data, others (notably Verizon and AT&T) utilize familiar legalese to suggest the collection and sale of this data is tightly controlled, anonymous, and secure, despite the fact that, again, fifteen years of scandals have shown that's very much never been the case.

[...] It's all a bit of an enforcement nightmare. Most companies claim that collecting this data isn't a big deal because it's "anonymized," despite the fact that studies keep showing that word means nothing. Telecom giants often claim they don't "sell" this kind of data, but that's often found to be a lie (they just call the practice of bundling and transferring and selling it to others something else entirely).

[...] So while asking some questions and only just starting to consider holding companies accountable if they're breaking the rules is a good start, it's a comically belated one. And it may not mean a whole lot if boxed-in and/or captured regulators don't meaningfully follow through.

Previously: FCC Chair Tries to Find Out How Carriers Use Phone Geolocation Data


Original Submission

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FCC Chair Tries to Find Out How Carriers Use Phone Geolocation Data 4 comments

Inquiry launched as Congress debates bill that could gut FCC's privacy authority:

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has ordered mobile carriers to explain what geolocation data they collect from customers and how they use it. Rosenworcel's probe could be the first step toward stronger action—but the agency's authority in this area is in peril because Congress is debating a data privacy law that could preempt the FCC from regulating carriers' privacy practices.

Rosenworcel sent letters of inquiry Tuesday "to the top 15 mobile providers," the FCC announced. The chairwoman's letters asked carriers "about their policies around geolocation data, such as how long geolocation data is retained and why and what the current safeguards are to protect this sensitive information," the FCC said.

The letters also "probe carriers about their processes for sharing subscriber geolocation data with law enforcement and other third parties' data-sharing agreements. Finally, the letters ask whether and how consumers are notified when their geolocation information is shared with third parties," the FCC said.

[...] The FCC inquiry is important "in light of the long history of abuses by carriers selling this kind of detailed and hyper-accurate information to law enforcement, bounty hunters, and even stalkers," said Harold Feld, senior VP of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. Mobile carriers "have unique access to highly accurate geolocation information—known as A-GPS—designed so that 911 responders can find a caller with pinpoint accuracy," and have "access to other information that can be combined with geolocation to produce a detailed picture of a person's activities far beyond what applications on the handset can provide," Feld said.

Big Three Carriers Pay $10M to Settle Claims of False “Unlimited” Advertising 46 comments

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2024/05/big-three-carriers-pay-10m-to-settle-claims-of-false-unlimited-advertising/

T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T will pay a combined $10.2 million in a settlement with US states that alleged the carriers falsely advertised wireless plans as "unlimited" and phones as "free." The deal was announced yesterday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

"A multistate investigation found that the companies made false claims in advertisements in New York and across the nation, including misrepresentations about 'unlimited' data plans that were in fact limited and had reduced quality and speed after a certain limit was reached by the user," the announcement said.

T-Mobile and Verizon agreed to pay $4.1 million each while AT&T agreed to pay a little over $2 million. The settlement includes AT&T subsidiary Cricket Wireless and Verizon subsidiary TracFone.
[...]
The carriers denied any illegal conduct despite agreeing to the settlement. In addition to payments to each state, the carriers agreed to changes in their advertising practices. It's unclear whether consumers will get any refunds out of the settlement, however.
[...]
The three carriers agreed that all advertisements to consumers must be "truthful, accurate and non-misleading." They also agreed to the following changes, the NY attorney general's office said:

  • "Unlimited" mobile data plans can only be marketed if there are no limits on the quantity of data allowed during a billing cycle.
  • Offers to pay for consumers to switch to a different wireless carrier must clearly disclose how much a consumer will be paid, how consumers will be paid, when consumers can expect payment, and any additional requirements consumers have to meet to get paid.
  • Offers of "free" wireless devices or services must clearly state everything a consumer must do to receive the "free" devices or services.
  • Offers to lease wireless devices must clearly state that the consumer will be entering into a lease agreement.
  • All "savings" claims must have a reasonable basis. If a wireless carrier claims that consumers will save using its services compared to another wireless carrier, the claim must be based on similar goods or services or differences must be clearly explained to the consumer.

The advertising restrictions are to be in place for five years.

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by Runaway1956 on Friday September 09 2022, @06:36PM (2 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday September 09 2022, @06:36PM (#1270998) Journal

    Anonymized data is a meaningless term. Their methods of anonymization is intentionally easily reversed. The customers who pay for the data want the identities that match the data. They aren't going to pay for genuinely anonymous data, it's really that simple. ROT13 ciphers don't make anything "anonymous".

    • (Score: 1, Redundant) by mcgrew on Sunday September 11 2022, @06:44PM (1 child)

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Sunday September 11 2022, @06:44PM (#1271227) Homepage Journal

      Informative, but offtopic. The topic is lying to your paying customers. Stick to the subject or writ it in a journal or make a submission.

      --
      mcgrewbooks.com mcgrew.info nooze.org
      • (Score: 1) by Runaway1956 on Sunday September 11 2022, @08:22PM

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday September 11 2022, @08:22PM (#1271240) Journal

        The post is entirely on topic. I've explained that anonymized data is not anonymized at all. That supposed anonymization is an VERY important talking point among the data brokers. People in general don't care if Google maybe knows their sexual procivities, but they won't want Google to publish that information for all the world to see. And, I've explained that Google readily sells that information when the price is right. The FCC is asking nicely that Gooogle and the rest are honest about the data. Has Google admitted that anonymization is meaningless? I'll answer my own question: No they have not!

        That is especially relevant in view of recent Supreme Court decisions and state laws regarding abortion.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 09 2022, @06:47PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 09 2022, @06:47PM (#1271000)

    I'm sorry, were you expecting something else? Have you forgotten who they serve? And who lets them do it?

    I'll leave it up to you all to determine why this is happening, who is really to blame for the chronic problems in our very representative government

    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Friday September 09 2022, @10:46PM (1 child)

      by Thexalon (636) on Friday September 09 2022, @10:46PM (#1271044)

      I'm sorry, were you expecting something else?

      Yes, actually: I was expecting them to not do even the bare minimum, because doing things is harder than not doing things.

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10 2022, @06:39AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10 2022, @06:39AM (#1271080)

        I was expecting them to not do even the bare minimum, because doing things is harder than not doing things.

        Gotta throw a bone for public relations occasionally, and it is election season, have an intern type up a letter

  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by HammeredGlass on Friday September 09 2022, @07:47PM (5 children)

    by HammeredGlass (12241) on Friday September 09 2022, @07:47PM (#1271013)

    for privacy to matter these monsters

    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Username on Friday September 09 2022, @08:19PM (4 children)

      by Username (4557) on Friday September 09 2022, @08:19PM (#1271030)

      Yeah, the whole thing doesn't make sense t ome. Abortion was legal, then they removed some illegal federal laws, abortion is STILL legal, but now we need to finally enforce some other laws because abortion was and is legal.

      I don't get it.

      • (Score: 0, Flamebait) by HammeredGlass on Friday September 09 2022, @10:06PM

        by HammeredGlass (12241) on Friday September 09 2022, @10:06PM (#1271039)

        It had limited legal protections under certain conditions and under various laws across many states that were not preempted by federal court decisions.

        There were no federal laws that were removed. There never was a federal law making baby killing legal federally.

        Baby killing is still legal in many states since the court handed down its 10th amendment decision, and is less legal in some states that enacted laws since the court's 10th decision.

        Also, the average legality of baby killing in Europe is more restrictive than the states that kept it legal.

      • (Score: 2) by tekk on Saturday September 10 2022, @04:12AM (2 children)

        by tekk (5704) Subscriber Badge on Saturday September 10 2022, @04:12AM (#1271074)

        Its foundation isn't in abortion rights strictly speaking, but rather in the court care Roe v Wade, which created expectations around privacy which have been used as the basis for other rulings. Where it *does* tie into abortion directly in that it's expected/feared that states which have made abortion illegal will start doing things like compelling and/or buying cell phone data to identify people who've had abortions.

        • (Score: 2) by HammeredGlass on Saturday September 10 2022, @06:56PM (1 child)

          by HammeredGlass (12241) on Saturday September 10 2022, @06:56PM (#1271133)

          Privacy murder

          • (Score: 2) by HammeredGlass on Saturday September 10 2022, @06:57PM

            by HammeredGlass (12241) on Saturday September 10 2022, @06:57PM (#1271134)

            There was supposed to be a greater than sign indicating the word murder there as the greater concern, but apparently it got subsumed by the formatting gods.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Friday September 09 2022, @08:10PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday September 09 2022, @08:10PM (#1271024)

    If you ask the companies "pretty please" and they respond in writing, there should be significant prescribed penalties for lying in those responses, and periodic audits to verify the statements.

    Or, are federal felony charges only for those who lie when applying for $550 per month disability checks?

    --
    🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Friday September 09 2022, @08:12PM (2 children)

    by Snotnose (1623) on Friday September 09 2022, @08:12PM (#1271025)

    the FCC had nowhere to go but up.

    --
    When the dust settled America realized it was saved by a porn star.
    • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Saturday September 10 2022, @01:49PM (1 child)

      by PiMuNu (3823) on Saturday September 10 2022, @01:49PM (#1271106)

      ...and USians are talking about bringing Trump back.

      Presumably the swamp is drained now so what next? (that was a joke)

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday September 10 2022, @08:02PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday September 10 2022, @08:02PM (#1271142)

        Thankfully, the latest poll I heard claims that fully 60% of U.S.ians believe that what happened on January 6th was a "very bad thing" and don't want to go anywhere near that again.

        Of course, polls can be flawed, elections can be rigged (aren't U.S. elections already rigged by gerrymandering?)

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10 2022, @09:14AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 10 2022, @09:14AM (#1271089)
    When picocells or even femtocells are more and more common, carriers often know where you are to great accuracy without even having to involve stuff like triangulation and signal strengths. And it'll get even more accurate as more and more move to 5G since there would be more small cells. After all if your phone is connected to a femtocell that is just 10m in size, then it's likely you're in that area ±10m.

    How are they even going to anonymize this when the FBI and those issuing NSLs will encourage them to not anonymize stuff? How are they going to ensure they can't produce reports of where anyone has been for the past 6 months until the FBI requests for history for a specific person and then suddenly they can miraculously do it? In theory some clever cryptographers could probably figure ways of doing it BUT the easiest and most likely way is the stuff is not anonymized and everyone involved is just gonna lie about it and pretend they're anonymizing it.

    And if the public start making a fuss about it they'll just say it's to catch pedophiles and terrorists and get most people to shut up.

    p.s. I use Tasker to track which cells my phone is connected to so that it can guess its location without involving GPS (e.g. home, office etc). Once in a while there are unusual cells (their cell ID format looks different from my telco's format, and then they only appear for an hour or so and then don't appear any more) which make me wonder if it's the cops or others doing stuff...
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