back to article What was that P word? Ah. Privacy. Yes, we'll think about privacy, says FCC mulling cellphone location data overhaul

America's comms regulator has finally pinky-promised to at least consider people's privacy when it looks into how cellphone location data can be made more accurate. On Friday, during a monthly meeting of commissioners, the FCC belatedly confirmed it would weigh up privacy alongside phone tracking, in a "notice of proposed …

  1. DougS Silver badge

    Screw first responders

    I'll take my chances at having an ambulance not get to me in time if it means not having accurate location data on me sold off without my consent!

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Screw first responders

      We only have two choices: being eaten by wolves or a false dichotomy. I, for one, would like first responders to get to me while having my location data remain otherwise secured, but that's just the kind of starry-eyed idealist I am.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Screw first responders

        I agree with both you and DougS.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Screw first responders

      Surely it is possible to have the location data only transmitted when you dial 911, and not when your phone is in your pocket?

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Screw first responders

        Yes, but you will need a law to enforce that in the US, otherwise phone companies will want to have that location data collected all the time so they can resell it to bounty hunters, police, etc.

  2. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    I am gobsmacked

    The current iteration of the FCC selling out the people so that massive corporations can continue to rip us off for scads of cash? Why that is clearly something so very out-of-character for them and something I would never expect them to do in a million years...

    1. TimMaher
      Thumb Up

      Re: I am gobsmacked

      Up vote for that.

      Didn’t even need a <sarcasm/> tag.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I am gobsmacked

      On the other hand, it's surprising that O'Reilly took a stronger pro-privacy stance than Rosenworcel. Just goes to show that you should be careful what you assume about the commissioners. Of course, I don't expect much, if any, positive action out of Pai's FCC regardless of what noises the commissioners make.

  3. JohnFen Silver badge

    Pai's FCC

    Let's be serious here. This is Pai's FCC, and Pai will not do anything that might restrict cell carriers from making every dime of profit they can, no matter the cost to people or society at large.

    1. A.P. Veening

      Re: Pai's FCC

      "Pai will not do anything that might restrict cell carriers from making every dime of profit they can, no matter the cost to people or society at large."

      So put a bounty on Pai's head and let the bounty hunters do their job. I think he will see the light pretty soon (though it might be the fiery red light of hell's fires).

      1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: Pai's FCC

        Just get someone to buy the location tracks of all of the commissioners' cell phones for the last couple of years end post the data online.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Pai's FCC

          Mysteriously, the records show that none of the commissioners has ever used a mobile phone.

          1. A.P. Veening

            Re: Pai's FCC

            In that case we have the problem of somebody meddling with the rules who doesn't even play, similar to the official position of the Roman Catholic Church upon sex and anti-conceptics, meaning disqualified.

  4. Mike 16 Silver badge

    How else?

    With the population aging and many skills over-represented in the boomer generation, how do we expect to keep up with the demand for accomplished assassins if we cannot enhance the accuracy of drone strikes with accurate location data? Automation must be expanded to jobs that used to require training and apprenticeship.

    1. stiine Bronze badge

      Re: How else?

      Move closer to a major airport.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: How else?

      Move to Gatwick. No problem with drone training there.

  5. doublelayer Silver badge

    Dealing with the tracking

    If there is a case for the class action law suit, surely it's this? The rules don't simply recommend against or ignore the issue of selling this data; it's against the rules. So couldn't both the mobile providers and the FCC be sued on behalf of every mobile customer? Hey lawyers, you like making a bunch of money from class actions that the class never sees? Here's your case. It's fine. Keep the money I'm owed for this. As long as you stop it, you deserve the money. Just make them pay you a lot for every victim.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: Dealing with the tracking

      Your first instinct is to take it to a court? You must be American.

      My first idea was to dig up the location information on all the members of the FCC Commission and publish it all. That'll get them to do something about it straight away, and with the added bonus that no lawyer gets rich.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Dealing with the tracking

        So your first idea is to do something illegal to a government employee, for which you'd probably be imprisoned, while mine is to go to an entity whose purpose is to be able to enforce the rule that the enforcement agency has been ignoring? Imagine that. I don't relish the idea of going to court, but if it can't be used to protect the public in some cases, with lawyers as there must be, then what good is it.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Dealing with the tracking

          Do senators and that count as government employees?

          Either way, I wouldn't exactly proclaim my identity from the rooftops, and not actually being in the US makes life easier in many ways, not least because the US government is a long way away and can be safely told to do one.

          These people are all politicians, and so it's only the court of public opinion you need to sway.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Dealing with the tracking

            It depends on your definition of "employee". The FCC people, while being appointed, have a specific task and would probably be counted. Senators are probably better described simply as politicians, and thus not employees. Whatever word you want to use, both categories are subsets of "the people the government doesn't want bad things to happen to". As already stated, this data selling is explicitly against the rules*. If you do things that are against the rules to targets the government does not want to be targets, they go after you. So it's a bad idea to go after the FCC or senators in anything that could land you in prison or have them ask for an extradition. Public opinion is definitely a viable option, but I fear that it will go nowhere.

            *If you did do this, you'd probably be buying the data from a company that makes a business of getting and selling it. The resulting attention would probably tank that company, which is a nice start, but there are other companies and the one you used will have no reservations about handing over any information about you that they have. This includes your payment method and the way they sent the data to you. You can anonymize that, but it's harder to anonymize data such that the FBI can't figure it out with time. Unless you live very far away from the U.S., there may be a method of extraditing you there, either from your home country or from a holiday destination.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Dealing with the tracking

      Except your user agreement with the cellular provide includes a clause that waives your right to class-action suit; instead requiring arbitration, then individual lawsuit.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Dealing with the tracking

        Likely true (I haven't seen everyone's agreement with their mobile carrier), but this wouldn't prevent a class-action suit against the FCC.

        Whether such a suit would have any legs I couldn't begin to guess. I believe there are still half a dozen suits in progress against the FCC over Net Neutrality, and have been for years, so even in the best case it'd likely be a long haul. Quite possibly they could stall the process until all the current commissioners are out of office anyway.

  6. PapaD

    Target them

    It's a fairly simply truism of politicians that they rarely get involved with anything until they have direct experience of it - Then they suddenly change their tune and they were 'all for it' after all.

    So, time to start buying the location data of the three problematic commissioners and making it available publicly.

    1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Target them

      Most of the time they won't even do anything to stop it even when they are the target of it. Instead they'll continue to kowtow to their corporate overlords while playing the martyr card and blaming some completely unrelated group.

  7. Reeder

    FCC, robo calls and bagpipe music - with thanks to John Oliver aka the rat-faced englishman

    The FCC will never protect users when it comes to robo calls because the service providers want to be able to do whatever they want to do as long as there is money to be made. Also known as "doing business" or "capitalism" or "the american dream"....or "gaming the system" which is another way of saying you cheat.

    The FCC commissioners recently started receiving robo calls with bagpipe music after John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) had his "tech guy" developed a robo-calling app which calls all five commissioners every 90 minutes with a pre-recorded message along with bagpipe music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FO0iG_P0P6M) in an effort to get them to ban robo calling (17:40 or so is the good stuff).

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019