back to article US lawmakers furious (again) as mobile networks caught (again) selling your emergency location data to bounty hunters (again)

US lawmakers have again called for an investigation into cell networks after it emerged that they have been selling specially protected user location data intended only for emergency services. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has repeatedly highlighted privacy violations by mobile operators, today called out Ajit Pai, boss of …

  1. stephajn

    Lock him up

    Seriously, either lock up this idiot in charge of the FCC for collusion, or the American people should demand their tax dollars funding this moron to be refunded. Amazing how an agency can get away with explicitly not doing its job.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Lock him up

      The big guy at the top has used CEO's etc. as advisors and heads of departments. They all work towards the corporate US model. Pai is just a tool by the corporates. Not sure what the answer is other than people getting fed up and taking back their country. But somehow, I don't see that happening.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Lock him up

        "The big guy at the top has used CEO's etc. as advisors and heads of departments. They all work towards the corporate US model. Pai is just a tool by the corporates. Not sure what the answer is other than people getting fed up and taking back their country. But somehow, I don't see that happening."

        You're right. Maybe it's time for a new boss who can "drain the swamp", eh?

        1. DCFusor Silver badge

          Re: Lock him up

          All of the alligators claim they're going to drain the swamp to get elected. Taking the country back doesn't involve elections, since all are bought with the pocket change of the big outfits - it's called crony capitalism - laws whose enforcement is the responsibility of the guilty - good luck with that. Doesn't matter if they're wearing a red or blue tie. The swamp is primarily the unelected as it is, the ones that are really hard to get rid of anyway. Doesn't matter who's elected, they're all in need of vast sums - hmmm, where does that come from - and all retire wealthy.

          Partisan politics is a show to distract us from power - just like the Hitchhiker's guide mentioned about Zaphod.

          Too bad there's no good obvious solution to this that doesn't involve high information citizens (good luck) or non violence (good luck).

          Better learn to live with it, realistically. "Humans will do as incentivised" and when they get to set the incentives, the results are as we see.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lock him up

      I would also accept having him strung up by his balls & beaten like a pinata. That goes for every C-level exec of a corporation, head of a governmental department, or public agency that puts profits above people. Fire 1K workers so the big boss can have another gold plated toilet in his billion dollar yacht? Fuck you. Axe the retirement system for veterans so your political cronies can pretend to be Scrooge McDuck in their swimming pools full of money? Fuck you. Shut down the government because you're throwing a tantrum? Fuck you. Being a blatant sock puppet arsehole for your corporate masters while employed as a Public Servant? FUCK. YOU.

      1. Someone Else Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Lock him up

        I would also accept having him strung up by his balls & beaten like a pinata. That goes for every C-level exec of a corporation, head of a governmental department, or public agency that puts profits above people. Fire 1K workers so the big boss can have another gold plated toilet in his billion dollar yacht? Fuck you. Axe the retirement system for veterans so your political cronies can pretend to be Scrooge McDuck in their swimming pools full of money? Fuck you. Shut down the government because you're throwing a tantrum? Fuck you. Being a blatant sock puppet arsehole for your corporate masters while employed as a Public Servant? FUCK. YOU.

        And a big FUCK YOU! to the (at the time of this writing) 5 corporate shill asslickers that downvoted this post!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lock him up

      Agreed, and upvoted.

      I’m a Republican, but before you all rush to tar and feather me - I can’t stand this dipshit either. He’s a shining example of corporate cronyism & regulatory capture in action. Yeah yeah, I know, “No True Scotsman” fallacy and that, but he’s the kind of shitstain who gives his nominal party a bad name. Thumbs up to Rosenworcel and Wyden for holding him to account and fighting the good fight.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lock him up

        Well to be honest, the battle lines these days should really be "the people" vs. "the corporates".

        "left/right" is a useful tool to keep the people fighting amongst themseves, when if they stopped for a moment, they'd realise they have more in common than they thought, and the real enemy is those government puppets (on both sides), who are the lapdogs of the corrupt corporations and billionaires.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Eric Idle put it well with his song...

          'Fuck You Very Much the FCC'

          Of course the FCC's current shenanigans are far graver than than the puritan censorship Mr Idle was railing against a few years back. He's updated his Galaxy Song over the years (to reflect the latest astronomical understanding), so perhaps he should update his FCC song for the Pai era?

          https://youtu.be/jixxYx9fklM

        2. Mahhn

          Re: Lock him up

          "the people" vs. "the corporates".

          Always has been, but most of the sheeple don't get it, and make the corporations stronger all the time. Electing officials that have gone so far as to give corporations rights as a person, but no responsibilities of such (it was a way to allow massive donations to political funds).

        3. DCFusor Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Lock him up

          And no one wants to notice a couple facts. And no, I'm not defending anyone here - I'm giving info on how things work.

          Executive compensation is usually in equities or options. That helps the board hide these insane pay scales for the guys at the top. They have to be all about the next quarter and !legally! about profit, or they don't make any money.

          The driver in the end is the stock market, and specifically, grandma's pension fund. Fail to make a good quarter and that fund - nominally dedicated to seeing grannie gets a better grade of cat food - sells your stock, and the execs, who are legally obligated to put profit over people who aren't shareholders, know this.

          Depending on how deep you want to go, "independent" central banking and fiat money along with interest rate setting drive quite a lot of this as well - those central banks are as federal as fedex - they are owned by banks. True in the US at least since JP Morgan bailed out the crash.

          Always easy to assume there's some "one weird trick" you can get behind that solves the problem.

          When you know how things work, it's messy and we need to think of real solutions, not slogans.

          Human nature ain't that pure - people do as incentivised. That's what needs fixing, and that's far from the "one weird trick" mentality most evidence.

          Sorry to bear bad news....I didn't create reality, I merely observe.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Lock him up

        They keep us fighting over stuff like walls and at what point in pregnancy abortion becomes illegal, so we won't notice democrats and republicans alike taking huge heaping helpings of corporate and dark money donations. They pretend to care by offering token resistance that goes away once they are in power - like republicans claiming to fight for term limits, or democrats against Citizens United.

        Anyone with half a brain can figure out that when people are able to spend over $100 million to win a single senate seat, there is well over $100 million of value collectively being extracted from having that person in their position.

        Even if you screen out groups and industries that donate overwhelmingly to one party, there are plenty who hedge their bets by donating to both sides - maybe not in the same race since that looks bad, but donating to republicans in red states/districts and democrats in blue states/districts is a cost efficient way to buy the outcomes you want by owning plenty of those in office.

        The ones who can't easily be bought like Ron Paul and AOC are demonized not only by the other side but by some in their own party as "crazy" or "too extreme"...when they really mean "won't play ball with big business".

        1. DCFusor Silver badge

          Re: Lock him up

          Watch the smears on Tulsi Gabbard. I don't agree with much of her program, other than the anti war part.

          But the MIC(C), as Eisenhower warned us, is driving this bus....the biggests of the big business with a lot of interlocking ownership (including media). Look at the smears against her already! Frankly, I'm not even on that side of the aisle, but anyone who wants to end war these days is now called treasonous or worse...and winds up abandoning that project - 'for some reason'.

          Talk to DPRK - treason to get us out of a war that's been going on since the '50s, really?

          Pull out of Syria or some other MENA war? Treason!

          And it'll be treason if someone "blue" tries it too...so called. Treason against things like the congressional districts profiting from f35's, or pouring TNT into shells and so on.

  2. oiseau Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Surprised?

    "This is more than an oversight. It's flagrant, willful disregard for the safety and security of Americans. Meanwhile, instead of policing these carriers, FCC and Ajit Pai have been rewriting the rules to help phone companies rake in more profit,"

    Is anyone surprised?

    What surprises me is that this DH is still heading the FCC.

    Oh, wait ...

    American Tories are in charge.

    1. Snake
      Mushroom

      Re: Is anyone surprised?

      https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/all/2016/06/14/net_neutrality_victory_dc_court_backs_full_rules/#c_2893160

      Why no, not at all.

      I'm simply tired of saying things that eventually are shown to be obvious.

      Please forward this to the congressman - while they had their heads in the sand, the rest of us were well aware of exactly what was going on.

    2. Michael Jarve
      Unhappy

      Re: Surprised?

      A large part of this comes from the typical American’s apathy and ignorance of what the FCC does. Your typical US cititizen believes the FCC is who you complain to when your TV reception is poor, or you’re receiving robo-calls at dinner time. Unfortunately, most American popular media (the big three, and their cable company cohorts) seem unwilling to report on or question the FCC in fear that they themselves will be put under closer scrutiny in retaliation. The pot calling the kettle black and all that. Ever greater and power consolidating mergers won’t be approved or have expensive conditions imposed on them. Will no one think of the shareholders!?

      Many of the most egregious (so far) privacy breaches occurred under Wheeler’s watch, but at the very least he was trying to right the course. American Pai doesn’t even offer the pretense of protecting consumers, regulating the industries he’s charged with regulating, or taking into account the will of Congress and the American people. People may look at the former head of the EPA and admonish his lavish, self aggrandizing spending, or that all the “adults in the room” of his Great, Greatness, the Best EVER, have been forced out, no one questions the little rich kid in the corner, with a runny nose and big mug of tax-payer cocoa, slurping on the lollipop nice aunty Verizon gave him, who actively doesn’t oversee the very industry he is supposed to regulate...

      The telecommunications companies now control the vast majority of consumer facing media, and they’re not afraid to use their bully-pulpit to advance their own interests, or at least downplay the grievances of their foes, or more likely not report on it at all. Even stalwarts of journalism like PBS and NPR have become more timid on media’s ‘inside baseball’ news for fear of having a belligerent congress and FCC decide to revisit some objection from some constituent long ago. So, they report breathlessly on The Facebook or the latest Yahoo! breach ( which should no longer shock anyone- who uses Yahoo!?), but FCC policy is relegated to some headline without context with the vague, undefined Net Neutrality inserted as a buzzword.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "blame head of FCC"

    And he cares how much?

  4. redpawn Silver badge

    The free market will fix this

    People will naturally gravitate toward providers who respect their privacy and the others will slowly go out of business over the next hundred and fifty years.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: The free market will fix this

      It will be very slowly as the big providers have all ready sliced and diced up the map and thus won't compete in another Telco's turf. There are "little guys" in the game but if you travel out of their turf, you pay through the nose for access. So, in essence, in spite of what the FCC says with all their glorious maps and BS, choice is rather limited for most of us.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: The free market will fix this

      > People will naturally gravitate toward providers who respect their privacy

      You assume there are any. This is a monopoly, not some ideal free market.

      1. dbtx Bronze badge

        I rather doubt there was any such assumption... the very same people also/frequently/STILL gravitate toward FoobCake. The good news is that quite like that Trump-loving dude's international tool and die operation, we will all stop circling the drain, eventually... when the radius reaches zero.

    3. Dagg
      Paris Hilton

      Re: The free market will fix this

      People will naturally gravitate toward providers who respect their privacy

      No! the majority people go for shiny shiny, fake news etc Paris as she would understand.

    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The free market will fix this

      Guys, Redpawn was being ironic. He's been down other by people who agree with him.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: The free market will fix this

        I guess people didn't read the "150 years" part, or have brain damage that leaves them immune to irony.

        1. dbtx Bronze badge

          s/ironic/sarcastic/

          but yeah it was obvious to some and not to others.

  5. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Devil

    So, I need fellow Regenistas help in getting some cell phone numbers....

    For Chairman Pai, his mom (assuming that he has a mom in this dimension, and that he wasn't summoned into our world via some ceremony involving blood sacrifice, heavy metal music and entreaties to the Dark Powers.), his wife, his kids, his friends, his brothers and sisters (Again, dependent on them being in this dimension.) his aunts and uncles, etc.

    Let's see how long his indifference lasts when it is HIS privacy at stake.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: So, I need fellow Regenistas help in getting some cell phone numbers....

      If you breach his privacy the FBI will drop on you like a ton of bricks. He's a VIP after all...

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: So, I need fellow Regenistas help in getting some cell phone numbers....

        He's a VIP after all...

        Very Important Prat

  6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    To our members

    Facebook is the 4th emergency service !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To our members

      "Facebook is the 4th emergency service !"

      Oh good, the coastguards, lifeboats, mountain rescue and cave rescue can have a rest then.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: To our members

        A few years ago the AA (Note to Americans and other Aliens = Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anonymous) ran a series of ads describing themselves as such.

        A certain amount of justified splutterage arose from those organisations

  7. Black Betty

    Nobody cares because CRIMINALS.

    It seems to me that Congress-critters and their ilk don't see any problems with this sort of privacy violation because the only people it truly affects is miscreants and other never-do-wells. Joe Blakes like you and I have nothing to fear, because generally nobody has any reason to want to search us out in the first place.

    That the occasional savvy stalker might abuse such a system seems to be the cracked egg price of facilitating "legitimate access" on the part of those who need it to do their jobs.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Nobody cares because CRIMINALS.

      "That the occasional savvy stalker might abuse such a system seems to be the cracked egg price of facilitating "legitimate access" on the part of those who need it to do their jobs."

      I'm not sure bounty hunters are classed as "emergency services". Maybe you know more better?

  8. LDS Silver badge
    Devil

    Be careful with such images...

    ... if Pai believes it is true, he could sell himself for the money.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The brown envelopes just keep on rolling in

    On the bright side he will, sooner or later, get even greedier and end up doing something probably criminal.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      On the bright side he will, sooner or later, get even greedier and end up being discovered having done something criminal.

      TFTFY

  10. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Why are you so surprised? Ajit Pai is serving his constituents very well.

    I don't see why ye Americans are so angry, a majority of ye, no, a majority of the electoral colleges voted Republican and this is what Republicans do. This is democracy, American-style. Why are you so surprised? Ajit Pai is serving his constituents very well.

    1. Claverhouse

      Re: Why are you so surprised? Ajit Pai is serving his constituents very well.

      Why are you so surprised? Ajit Pai is serving his constituents very well.

      I don't see why ye Americans are so angry, a majority of ye, no, a majority of the electoral colleges voted Republican and this is what Republicans do. This is democracy, American-style. Why are you so surprised? Ajit Pai is serving his constituents very well.

      Exactly. And as a noted hater of democracy I must say it's insane when THE PEEPLE SPEAK and democracy's true believers are displeased with the result --- whether Trumpikins or mad old Hillary; isn't that what you wanted ? The Peeple to 'Choose' ?

      As for this little git, I must say that the alleged opposite to Trump, the 'Cool' and 'Able' Big Chief Sit-On-His-Hands seemed incapable of signing the needed protections into law, as much as he was incapable of creating a durable Health Settlement; so maybe, when the Democrats have control, they can actually do things instead of pissing and moaning into the wind.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Why are you so surprised? Ajit Pai is serving his constituents very well.

        Bah, the blue team isn't any different. There actually were bills in congress laying out net neutrality rules before the last president felt it wasn't going fast enough and went all executive order happy. Too many people forget that patience can be a virtue and even imperfect laws are better than easily revoked edicts.

  11. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    This is how hi tech works

    Everyone is outraged that their location information is being sold and used by third parties... yet, how many have used their devices to lookup road traffic data not caring where that location data came from.

    1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: This is how hi tech works

      ' "The American people want, expect, and deserve the best possible public safety services - including the most precise targeting available for wireless alerts Dog the Bounty Hunter to target his kill drones," Pai said.'

      "What's that whirring noi..." BOOM!

  12. paulll

    “Recognizing that there is still more work to be done, I urge all principals—from 3GPP and ATIS to the wireless carriers and handset manufacturers—to remain vigilant in their work to ensure that the benefits of enhanced wireless emergency alerts are made available by November. The American people want, expect, and deserve the best possible public safety services—including the most precise targeting available for wireless alerts.”

    I don't get it. A tornado's going to destroy the intersection of 2nd Street and 6th Avenue but the level of danger to the rest of the town doesn't warrant an alert?

    Smells like active complicity ...

    Kudos, though, to the FCC for providing their documentation in plain .txt format.

  13. Aodhhan Bronze badge

    Okay... simmer down.

    This is one of those stories which include about 10% truth 70% spin and 20% lies. Not to mention a congressional representative, who knows about 15% about what he's talking about, because he isn't interested in the entire truth. Really, raise your hand if you think you can trust a representative? He's likely doing this to get communication lobbyists to donate money to him.

    I enjoy my privacy, and I hate the fact a company can spy on you... All they need to do is put out a phone app, get you to install it, and they have your location--and don't think you are being alerted about your location or you give it permission. There are ways around this, especially if someone has rooted their phone and removed protections. There is no law preventing this. So keep this in mind when you blow up on what you're being "told" about this case.

    When 'location' data is merely historic data, the FCC doesn't have any jurisdiction over this, because if fails to be communications once it is historic/trend data. It isn't 'live' comms, its just numbers on a spreadsheet. Thanks to information and civil needs (aka transparency) laws you can get almost any historical data from a phone company. You can't blame the FCC on this one, this is Congress' weight to bear because of their oversight and limitations of the FCC.

    Here is the odd thing. Nobody is screaming about companies tracking us and selling information. Or credit card companies selling every bit of our purchasing life data. Yet, people are screaming about protecting the location of criminals who are jumping bail. Does this make sense? of course not.

    Give me a break.

    Whenever a lawmaker/representative is overbearing about something, first check to see if they have any qualification/expert knowledge; second, try to determine why they are making such a big case about this, when there are obviously more important items to deal with. Not to mention a bigger picture to fix when it comes to privacy.

    I'm not a big fan of the FCC, but I also don't trust most politicians... no matter what party they affiliate with.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Okay... simmer down.

      Nobody is screaming about companies tracking us and selling information. Or credit card companies selling every bit of our purchasing life data.

      What cave have you been living in? Many people have been complaining about these things, for a long time; and even if they weren't, that says absolutely nothing about the validity of complaints against bad behavior by mobile carriers. That's the tu quoque fallacy, in effect: claiming that because one wrong goes unchallenged, it's invalid to challenge an analogous wrong.

      Yet, people are screaming about protecting the location of criminals who are jumping bail.

      If you think that's the only use unethical access to AGPS information has been put to, you're an idiot, to be blunt.

    2. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

      Re: Okay... simmer down.

      "When 'location' data is merely historic data, the FCC doesn't have any jurisdiction over this."

      100% false. The rules specifically say the A-GPS data is not to be sold, and only used for emergency services. It does not magically become exempt after it's aged for a few seconds or minutes. You know there's no distinction between current and historic data right? Taking your argument to it's conclusion, all voice and data traffic spends several milliseconds going through network switch packet buffers as it traverses across the phone company network, therefore it's all historical and exempt from privacy laws.

      Anyway, if the FCC refuses to do their job, it may be time for a nice set of civil suits. I think it'd be VERY easy to find judges that take a dim view on companies selling data, explicitly against the law, to shady and secretive third parties.

  14. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Can anyone explain why the FCC was shut down

    They shutdown in January, but why? FCC is an independent agency funded through regulatory fees. How does the partial federal government shutdown affect their ability to work?

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Can anyone explain why the FCC was shut down

      It's an excuse to delay things. Pai's remit, from his corporate sponsors, is to interfere with any regulatory brakes on their profiteering. He's put them in a pretty good position and is now experiencing pushback, so delaying tactics work to his advantage.

    2. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

      Re: Can anyone explain why the FCC was shut down

      "They shutdown in January, but why? FCC is an independent agency funded through regulatory fees. How does the partial federal government shutdown affect their ability to work?"

      The US has a broken political system, the political polls only pretend there are two political parties (ignoring all 3rd parties), so so does the mass media. This ensures parties other than the main 2 parties gain little to no influence. Imagine the situation you'd have in the UK if the Torries and Conservatives were literally the only two parties, so when they start to bicker over something there is no one else in office to tell them to quit bickering and get something done, nobody else in office to force a vote one way or the other, and no "other" choice to vote for at election time to show dissatisfaction with this situation.

      During government shutdowns in the US, fully automated web sites are shut down ahead of time, outdoor memorials and monuments that are unstaffed anyway are fenced off to make sure nobody can enjoy them, and many other petty and childish behaviors. I'm sure many of these were members of one main party or the other thinking they'll go ahead and make that shutdown as painful for the public as possible.

      1. DCFusor Silver badge

        Re: Can anyone explain why the FCC was shut down

        Yes, 100%. Perhaps also important is to note what wasn't shut down.

        IRS collections. Military adventures far from home. Various snooping on us. Long list.

        What do these two lists - the ones that run and the ones that don't - differ in.

        The ones that get shut down are the ones that deliver service to the average citizen. It's *meant* to hurt - and hurt us.

        The ones that are kept up keep the powerful in power.

        I bet the only reason entitlements are kept up is to avoid revolt, and the timing here might indicate that - food stamp money was about to run out. Not sure under what aegis social security kept paying (it did, I got mine).

  15. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Happy

    The Fall Guy

    I'm just thankful that this technology was not available back when "The Fall Guy" was produced in the '80s - it would have been a shorter format where "Big Jack" gives Colt Seavers up to date location information for bail jumpers and off he goes and nabs them in short order. And that would have meant less screen time for Heather Thomas too.

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