FCC chair tries to find out how carriers use phone geolocation data

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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.

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