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AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile are fined more than $ 200 million for selling customer locations, per report

The Federal Communications Commission plans to impose a fine of $ 200 million on four mobile phone providers for providing real-time location data from consumers to third parties, Reuters reported Thursday. The companies will be able to challenge the amount of the fines that are expected to be announced Friday, before they become definitive, Reuters reported.

The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

motherboard reported last year that AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile sold real-time location data from users to external distributors. In the aftermath of that report, the carriers undertook to cease the sale of the data or, in some cases, have already declared that they have broken off links with the offending contractors.

However, some airlines have advocated sharing data as a general practice, even though they condemned specific partners. In a letter published in May, AT&T described data sharing as “an important feature that app developers often use to provide location services.”

“For example, ride-sharing apps use A-GPS to make sure the car appears at the right location,” the letter said. “For these reasons, reports of alleged improper use of A-GPS are incorrect.”

The FCC started shortly after the investigation into location data practices motherboard report, and legislators have pushed the committee to demonstrate progress at various points during the following year. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said last month that “one or more wireless providers have apparently violated federal law.”

Reached for comment, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) criticized the FCC’s slow action in response to privacy violations. “This issue only came to light after my office and dedicated journalists discovered how wireless companies shared the locations of Americans Willy Nilly,” Wyden said in a statement. “He only investigated it after public pressure had increased. And now his answer is a series of comically inadequate fines that will not prevent telephone companies from abusing the privacy of Americans the next time they can make money quickly. “

In January, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also criticized the agency that takes so long to respond to the reports. “It’s very nice to consider what a black market could do with this data,” she said. “It puts the safety and privacy of every American with a cordless phone at risk.”