Ajit Pai gives operators the opportunity to pass on data breaches free of charge while shutting down the FCC

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai drinks from a huge coffee mug in front of an FCC seal.
Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with his oversized coffee cup in November 2017.

Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, rejected a Democratic lawmaker's call for a mobile privacy scandal to be addressed immediately and said he could wait until the closure of the government was over.

A motherboard study released last week revealed that T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT & T are still selling the real-time location information of their mobile customers to third-party data brokers, although in June 2018 they promised to end the controversial practice ,

The chairman of the House Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone jr. (DN.J.), Pai asked for an "emergency briefing" in which he explained why the FCC "stopped unauthorized disclosure of real-time location data from mobile operators" and has not yet finished an update on "What measures has the FCC taken, to solve this problem today ".

Pai's FCC could take action despite the repeal of the Commission's 2017 Privacy Policy. Telephone companies are required by law to protect Customer Proprietary Network Information [CPNI], "and the FCC definition of CPNI contains location data.

"An emergency briefing is necessary for the sake of public safety and national security and therefore can not wait until President Trump decides to reopen the government," Pallone wrote to Pai, noting that "[b]Ad actors can use location information to track the physical movements of people without their knowledge or consent. "

"No danger to safety," says FCC

Pai did not agree with Pallone.

"FCC chairman Ajit Pai refused today to inform the Energy and Commerce Committee staff about real-time location of the mobile phone[s]"Pallone said yesterday in a statement." In a recent telephone conversation, his associates claimed that these monstrous acts pose no threat to the safety of human lives or property that the FCC will address during the Trump shutdown. "

Pai's office defended the decision when contacted by Ars today. The FCC "investigated the handling of location information by mobile operators," said an FCC spokesman. "Unfortunately, we had to suspend this investigation earlier this month due to the lack of funds, and according to the instructions of our specialist lawyers, the current career member on the issue is currently on vacation, of course, if the Commission does so the investigation can be continued. "

Pai's decision was criticized by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who is part of the FCC's Democratic minority.

"Your location data for mobile phones is being sold by dodgy entities that you have never given permission to pursue," Rosenworcel wrote in one tweet, "This is a personal and national security issue, no law prevents the @FCC from meeting with Congress to discuss this now and it needs to be investigated."

The FCC is usually closed during shutdown. Some publicly available resources, such as the Consumer Complaints Center, are not accessible online, although the Network Outage Reporting System and certain other systems are still available and some Commission staff are still working.

Rosenworcel made himself available to Congress, but "as a minority member of the FCC, she does not have the authority to direct funds to the commission," said Pallone.

Pai has sustained a steady stream of Tweets during shutdown, mainly about non-FCC matters. On the 3rd of January he has twittered "The @FCC will stop most operations this afternoon and we will continue to work on it [spectrum] Auctions and matters that are necessary for the protection of life and property. "

Pai also responded to a tweet stating that broadcasters on live television can "go through Carlin's list of curse words while the FCC is closed. "I'm on duty for the duration of the job, and there's a long enough statute of limitations ... so I'd advise you not to try & $ ^ # *%!" Pai wrote,

Pallone argued that to protect Americans, immediate action was needed to address airline consumer privacy violations. "There is nothing in the law that personally prevents the chairman from meeting this serious threat that could allow criminals to track the position of police officers on patrol, victims of domestic violence, or foreign opponents to American military personnel Tracking down ground, "Pallone said.

The bad advertising for mobile operators has impacted despite FCC inaction. AT & T and T-Mobile agreed last week to discontinue their data exchange by March.