“Cellphone carriers usually ask for their customers’ blessing before listing their phone numbers, sharing their addresses or exposing them to promotional emails,” Drew FitzGerald reports for The Wall Street Journal. “But seeking permission to share one particularly sensitive piece of information — a cellphone’s current location — often falls to one of several dozen third-party companies like Securus Inc. and 3Cinteractive Corp.”

“That arrangement embarrassed the wireless industry earlier this year after it was discovered that Securus, a prison phone operator, created a website that let law-enforcement agencies find the location of non-inmates without their permission,” FitzGerald reports. “Blake Reid, an associate clinical professor at the University of Colorado Law School, said this ‘chained consent’ process likely violates Section 222 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which sets privacy standards for carriers, though there hasn’t been a strong case to test his theory.”

“Other industry experts doubt the carriers’ location-sharing practices violate any law. The FCC in 2007 imposed new broadband rules that left location data gathered from internet service outside of Section 222 strictures,” FitzGerald reports. “About 75 companies had access to Verizon Communications Inc. customers’ locations, the company said in a June letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), who has pressured telecom companies to disclose more information about their data-protection measures… Sen. Wyden said in a statement that ‘middlemen are selling Americans’ location to the highest bidder without their consent, or making it available on insecure web portals.’ An FCC spokesman said the telecom regulator’s enforcement bureau is looking into the matter.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: “We’re looking into the matter” generally means “don’t hold your breath.”

The answer is to eliminate chained consent. Make it illegal because it’s a recipe for abuse.

Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain English, and repeatedly. I’m an optimist; I believe people are smart, and some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data. — Steve Jobs