U.S. Senator: Middlemen are selling Americans’ location to the highest bidder without their consent

“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


  1. In matters of protecting our rights, liberties, and privacy it seldom matters whether government officials are Democrat or Republican. They will throw us under the bus every time. Whether its sweeping, egregious legislation like the patriot act, or trying to get backdoors into our information technology, or building spy agencies that listen to and monitor every call, text, and email they can, our “representatives” never seem to represent us.

    This is particularly true of Republicans who are supposed to be guardians of FREEDOM, over all else.

    One thing Big Government and Big Corporations agree on is their love of Big Data. Trust me. Once you have access to a massive amount of data about people, no matter how benign your intentions, it is hard to resist playing with it to see what you learn.

    It is sobering when you also consider that a significant amount of data on every man, woman, and child in America can fit on a flash drive. You can’t tell me that people don’t copy databases for themselves.

    This stuff is not like the mindless crap that Facebook tries to keep. You don’t get to lie on credit applications, firearm registrations, medical data, and so on.

    1. Stop watching the Paranoid News Network and actually read some of the bills that congress passes. Not all of them are horrible and evil, believe it or not. Some legislation proposes more transparency, and demands that corporations reveal the data they steal from their users.

      Then your favorite media outlet whines that the government is establishing too many rules and regulations.
      – They whine about net neutrality hurting the potential profits of ISPs datamining and selling user data.
      – They whine about privacy restrictions for your digital medical data not being freely given to profiteering ad companies so they can bombard you with targeted pharma ads.
      – They whine about sensible gun regulation somehow being misused, you know, because every crazy person has the god given right to high power automatic weapons that were never envisioned by the founding fathers.
      – They whine about companies having to disclose the pollutants they pump into air and water, because that is so inconvenient, it would be just terrible for the citizen to know what multinational corporations are doing to the environment
      – They whine about government holding any public land, celebrating the release of two convicted arsonists who destroyed public property that is intended to be preserved and enjoyed for many generations to come — while simultaneously cheering the confiscation of private property by a corporation to take/steal private property to run unneeded oil pipelines for the benefit of Canadian tar sands mining.
      – and so on.

      Maybe what we need to stop aligning ourselves with brain dead political parties and vote competent technical experts into office who will run an efficient, sensible government that places the rights of the citizen above the profits of multinational corporations. Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?

      The problem is not primarily the size of the federal government, or the number of regulations for that matter. The party of law and order loves to add governmental bloat when they can play it to the patriotic base and hold military parades displaying the trillions of dollars in wasted taxpayer money. No, the core of the problem is inefficient regulation and ill informed public servants like the revolving door clown show we see today. Swamp remains more full than ever.

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