back to article Congress to FCC: Where’s the damn report on mobile companies selling location data?

It’s been 18 months since it emerged that US mobile companies were selling the location data to their tens of millions of users with little or no oversight, and Congress wants to know what the hell the FCC is doing about it. In a letter sent on Friday, all Democratic members of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce …

  1. Garymrrsn
    Coat

    US Politics

    Like watching a game where the prize is the right to do as you will with the spectators.

    I think I'll head for the exit ahead of the crowd.

    1. Paul Herber Silver badge

      Re: US Politics

      Not so fast, sunshine. In this game there is an exit fee. Paiup.

    2. STOP_FORTH

      Re: US Politics

      Didn't the Aztecs have a game like that? Sort of basketball/handball?

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: US Politics

        Didn't the Aztecs have a game like that?

        Yup. And the losers got to experience the sacrificial table up close and personal.

        1. STOP_FORTH

          Re: US Politics

          Sounds more extreme than the version I read about. Winning team got to confiscate all the spectators' clothes! Maybe FA Cup games had harsher penalties?

      2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

        Re: US Politics

        The Mayans too. And they say it was so violent that you could get killed just by playing, you didn't even have to lose first.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: US Politics

      I'm not convinced this is the FCC's jurisdiction...

      FTC is probably more in line with this (like banking and other business dealings)

      Regardless of who's juris-damn-dictin it is, the report needs to get done!

      Maybe Demo[n,c][r,R]ats can stop with the ridiculous investigations and actually LEGISLATE something. Otherwise, they are merely crying/whining and passing the blame onto a convenient target (Pai and FCC). But that, of course, would require REAL work, when all they seem to be interested in doing these days is get rd of the duly elected president.. by hook, crook, or coupe d'etat.

      [I bet Trump would sign it if they do something reasonable to limit [ab]use of privacy info]

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: US Politics

        The legislation has been in place for 20 years, it's Section 702 of the Telecommunications Act 1996. And in case you missed it, they first requested this investigation back in February. If the FCC doesn't think it's competent to produce such a report, it should have said so then.

        But nice try at muddying the waters there.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: US Politics

          uh, section 702 deals with NETWORK information, actually... and what is "that" exactly?

          And therein lies the problem right? Does this "network information" ALSO include triangulated cell phone locations, or other similar information? Maybe. Does it include the use or abuse of GPS data? Probably not. If the phone has on it, for example, a pre-installed proprietary application that does "phone home" with GPS, and the user did NOT turn it off can THAT still be used without permission?

          I think this is the source of the problem here. 'network information' is too vague of a definition, ready to be exploited [and probably is]. Twisted by lawyers (they do that) the laws may not actually apply to information that is NOT "network information" but MAY include the location of a cell phone.

          The FTC, however, DOES have jurisdiction on whether or not customer information can be sold, or used for advertisements (etc.), without permission, PERIOD. That would require NEW LEGISLATION probably. And *THAT* is my point.

          I am not sure whether or not the FCC has jurisdiction in this case. I re-iterate my point.

      2. Trollslayer Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: US Politics

        The Democrats have passed plenty of bills but Moscow Mitch has said a number of times that he will block anything passed by Democrats.

        Go away and grow up.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: US Politics

          "Go away and grow up."

          You should say that while looking into a mirror, actually...

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Do they have the power to have him subpoenaed arrested and brought before them to be questioned under caution? And tell him he'll stay there until they're happy with his answers.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      That's a good question. Maybe it should happen since the clock is running out this issue. That is unless the rules get changed. Pai doesn't have to do anything or answer to anyone still. I daresay he's as corrupt and possibly to some level as incompetent as they come. I'm sure there will be another one of his press releases spewing his usual BS in all it's glory soon.

    2. Palpy

      Re: Senate committee power to arrest --

      Theoretically the Senate committee could have a sergeant-at-arms arrest someone who was defying a Congressional subpoena. This is seldom invoked -- the last time was in 1927. Pai is not, to my knowledge, defying a subpoena, he's just corrupt as hell.

      But anyway, Republicans control the Senate, so no such action will take place if the target is an appointee of President Trump. Most of the Republicans in the Senate are in Trump's dirty pocket anyway -- they don't call Senator McConnell "Moscow Mitch" because he's upholding the US Constitution or serving the American public, exactly.

      1. eAbyss

        Re: Senate committee power to arrest --

        This was a House committee which the Democrats control. It doesn't matter what the Senate says, the House is a separate body.

        1. Palpy

          Re: Senate committee, but NOT!! (Thanks)

          Yep, I read too quickly and made faulty assumptions. You are correct, it's the House Energy and Commerce Committee, not the Senate committees I was thinking of.

          So, that said, the House committee would, I think, first have to subpoena Ajit Pai, he would have to refuse to testify, and only then could the House load the Sergeant-At-Arms' six-gun and give him a fast horse. So to speak.

          But I don't think the House can arrest Pai for being corrupt and stupid. More's the pity.

  3. whoseyourdaddy

    I blame Trump. That's all I have to say on Pai.

    1. sbt Silver badge
      Facepalm

      He's being enabled

      Mr. Emoluments is only causing havoc because his so-called party won't look past the well-poisoning lifetime judicial appointments they love so much and call out the graft and corruption that they're getting, too.

      Why would Pai feel obliged to behave any better when he has the example of the executive and its leader to follow, and can see the lack of consequences? He obviously doesn't care about bad press; it's just "fake news".

      1. Mephistro Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: He's being enabled

        The saddest (and funniest) part of this situation is the way that most (non-millionaire) republican voters ignore what is being done to them, even when it's being done openly in front of their faces.

        "They are wiping their ass with my rights and helping big companies to steal my money, but they are in my party, so I'll keep on voting for them."

        It's fucking ridiculous!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: He's being enabled

          It's worse than that. Many are firmly convinced foreigners, wall-jumpers, and so on are going to leech off of them: and many of these rural types come from a very "independent" mindset where you only had yourself to rely on. As far as they're concerned, a vote for Republicans is a vote to leave them the F alone.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: He's being enabled

            >As far as they're concerned, a vote for Republicans is a vote to leave them the F alone.

            Ask the Iowan farmers and super low soybean prices how that is working out for them.

          2. LDS Silver badge

            "rural types come from a very "independent" mindset"

            How many billions in federal subsidies farmers get each year?

            The problem is they come from a classic anarchist mindset "give me someone else's money and then let me do what I like".

            Ironically, a "smaller government" will also means no or little subsidies... I'm not against subsidies when needed - but I would like people to admit that they are getting help from others people's taxes.

            1. Chris G Silver badge

              Re: "rural types come from a very "independent" mindset"

              The subsidies that farmers recieve is more about underpinning the industries that buy from farmers and not only in the US.

              Supermarket chains and food processing drive the price of farm goods so low that without subsidies, farming would go out of business, it's also an aid to slow down the takeover of farming completely by megacorp farming companies. When that happens expect the quality of the world's food to be even more suspect.

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: "rural types come from a very "independent" mindset"

                Regardless, most of the proudest "self-reliant" types are in fact very reliant on government assistance. Some of it's direct; most of it is indirect. But in either case it's bullshit.

          3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: He's being enabled

            a very "independent" mindset where you only had yourself to rely on

            American self-reliance is almost entirely a fantasy. The vast majority of that voting bloc exists only because of Homesteading and Reclamation (or Reclamation's rival vandals, the Army Corps of Engineers), and only enjoys modern conveniences because of other huge Federal projects such as rural electrification, communications subsidies, and Federal highway money. Then there are all the ranchers grazing cattle on Federal lands, the lumber industry using the vast network of roads built by the Forestry Service, and so on.

            In some parts of agriculture it's a bit of a wash, since so many Federal subsidies go to big agribusiness rather than the smaller farmers who are often the staunchest Republican supporters. But that doesn't stop those small farmers from taking their subsidy checks, of course.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Trumpistan brought the situation to the extreme consequences, but the trend started far earlier - just look at the US banks obtaining the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and soon after precipitating the world in the worst crisis after 1929.

      US administrations (and not only) went from being business-friendly to business-accomplices, and not without some returns. As long as elections are too expensive endeavours, companies know what they can buy.

  4. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    Could some Journalist please...

    obtain from these very same phone companies the real time location data for the wives and family of the Republicans on the committee that didnt sign this document?

    Make that public and watch how fast they turn around when they realise its not just the plebs getting their data stolen...

    1. jonathan keith Silver badge

      Re: Could some Journalist please...

      Much as I'd love that to happen, "Make that public and watch how fast both the publication and reporter are targetted by various Federal TLAs and Fox 'News'" is the more likely reality, unfortunately.

      Don't like the message? Shoot the messenger! Much easier than actually doing something about the problem (and admitting at the same time that you might have been wrong earlier).

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Could some Journalist please...

        Much as I'd love that to happen, "Make that public and watch how fast both the publication and reporter are targetted by various Federal TLAs and Fox 'News'" is the more likely reality, unfortunately.

        Don't like the message? Shoot the messenger! Much easier than actually doing something about the problem (and admitting at the same time that you might have been wrong earlier).

        It doesn't have to be a regular publication, it just might be an interesting item for Wikileaks. And while we are at it, making the same information for the heads of various Federal TLAs and Fox 'News', their spouses and children public will convince those [CENSORED] pretty quickly, especially if their position and salary accompany those location details.

    2. davenewman

      Re: Could some Journalist please...

      No, it is Ajit Pai's location data that needs to be published in real time.

      1. LDS Silver badge
        Devil

        "it is Ajit Pai's location data that needs to be published in real time"

        Not difficult:

        Home -> Verizon offices -> bank (or tax haven, probably).

        Laughing all the way, obviously.

  5. Danny 14 Silver badge

    I love it when all the US led forums were laughing about GDPR, then turned and cried foul when US companies treat their customers data like dirt.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Karma is a lovely bitch ;)

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "cried foul when US companies treat their customers data like dirt."

      They treat it like dirt with diamonds in. Big Data is big money. $4.95 to get a dossier on somebody doesn't sound like a lot, but the cost for Spokeo to collect and provide it is no more than $1 and then they can keep selling it over and over.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    He's a tool

    I can think of at least two ways that applies! My first impression of him was what a dick, he'll screw the system (box checked). Second is, he's being used, likes it, and thinks there is a big payoff in the future

  7. fredesmite Bronze badge
    Thumb Down

    Yet another reason not to have a smart phone

    big brother is watching everything.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Yet another reason not to have a smart phone

      It's not just smart phones. Any mobile device which uses the cell towers has the location data logged, and that's what is being sold on.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Data in the Pai with diamonds

    Corruption.

    Go big, or go home.

    The Trump way.

  9. Imhotep

    Regulatory Capture

    Another commenter in another thread used the phrase "regulatory capture", and this is a pretty good example.

    Those being regulated eventually take over the agency doing the regulating.

    I've often thought all government bureaucracies ought to be periodically disbanded and the rebuilt from scratch with people focused on the original mission.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Regulatory Capture

      commenter in another thread used the phrase "regulatory capture"

      [Waves].

      And the FCC is only the most egregious example (and it happens over here too) - bodies that theoretically regulate an industry end up stuffed with industry insiders who (at the best) neuter the regulator and, at worst, make corrupt laws to benefit the industry that sponsers them.

      Which is why banking regulations were unregulated. Which is why Boeing could get away with (effectively) being allowed to mark their own homework and why Pai can get away with blatantly working for the benefit of the big telecoms companies (Verizon in particular).

      The worst part is that, if you block people moving from industry to the regulator, the efficiency of the regulator goes down. But (IMHO) it's better to have a less-effective regulator rather than a regulator actively working on behalf of the industry they are supposed to be regulating rather than the consumer.

      And it's not a problem confined to any particular party (also the right-wingers here and in the US are somewhat more blatant about it) - it's kind of inherent in the system.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Regulatory Capture

        "But (IMHO) it's better to have a less-effective regulator rather than a regulator actively working on behalf of the industry they are supposed to be regulating rather than the consumer."

        I don't see much difference between the two. An ineffective regular can be run around and bullied, meaning it's just as counterproductive.

        So it poses a conundrum. Who do you pick to mind the wily henhouse when the ONLY applicants available are foxes?

  10. Nolveys Silver badge

    Dear Congress,

    We don't give a fuck what you think about anything. You sold out before we did, remember? Your rulers are our rulers. We realize that you need to make a big show to pretend that you give a pinch of rat turd about the American people, but we both know it's just an act.

    We both know how this will work out. We will continue to do as our masters please and you will do nothing more than hem and haw. Let's get this over quickly so that we can both get back to making money for our employers.

    Yours,

    Ajit Pai

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The worst part is...

    The worst part is, the Idjit Pooh/head of FCC isn't elected, so we're at the mercy of whoever wins the prezzy awards and appoints the next one.

    None of the current contenders have said anything substantial on who they'd appoint/anoint for the position, so we can't even pick against the 18+ to narrow down now.

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