The chairman of the House Energy and Trade Committee said that Ajit Pai, of the FCC, had refused to keep the committee informed of the real-time location data carrier's sale.


President Donald Trump meets with Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, at Diwali's Diya Lighting Ceremony in the Roosevelt Hall of the White House on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 in Washington.Photo: Grouvy Today / Evan Vucci

Declaring that there is no legal reason why Ajit Pai should refuse the invitation to inform lawmakers at the closure of the government, the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and the trade criticized the FCC chief on Monday for refusing to appear for a conference on the ongoing controversy over Americans. real-time location data is actively disclosed to unauthorized third parties.

In an appeal issued Monday, Pai's staff told the Democrats that he would not appear to discuss his agency's progress in solving the problem because of the closure of the plant. Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Jr., asked for his presence last week for an "emergency meeting", citing a threat to law enforcement, military personnel and victims of violence domestic, said that the case could not wait. stop to solve.

Large parts of the federal government have been closed since December 22, as President Trump refused to sign a spending bill that did not provide for billions of dollars for the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border. The House of Representatives and the Senate have both passed bills that exclude money. After the FCC funds ran out on January 3, the commission announced that it would cease all work unrelated to "the protection of life and property."

The attention was drawn to the issue of phone tracking last week after Motherboard revealed that one of its reporters had managed to get the location of a cell phone in Queens, in New York, thanks to a $ 300 contract. The report followed a Grouvy Today article last April that revealed how wiretap data was transmitted by "middleman" carriers such as AT & T and T-Mobile to those responsible for the application of the law that would otherwise need a warrant to obtain it.

The security journalist of the motherboard, Joseph Cox, wrote that he had acquired telephone location data from a source in the surety sector during an undercover investigation. and that sensitive data was systematically acquired by bond agents (read "bounty hunters") without notice. summons or prior approval of the courts.

In a letter to the FCC president last week, Pallone said it was paramount that his committee immediately investigate the issue and that he could not wait "until the president Trump decides to reopen the government. " However, committee members said Monday that Pai had refused. to inform them by quoting the closure, while affirming (in Pallone's words) that the case was "not a threat to the safety of life or human property".

"It's not clear to me that I've ever consented to that, and I bet you did not do it either."

Neither Pai, nor his chief of staff, Matthew Berry, have made the call to warn Pallone's office of his refusal, according to a senior Democrat assistant, who said the news was that an employee of lower rank.

Pallone responded to Pai's decision in a statement: "Nothing in the law should prevent the president from meeting personally about this serious threat that could allow criminals to locate police officers on patrol, victims of domestic violence or The foreigners." opponents to follow the military on US soil. "

Pai's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an e-mail to Gizmodo, Senator Ron Wyden, who had asked questions about the extra-legal sale of location data to correctional officers last spring, criticized Pai for "enough time tweet chat videos memes tired, "while refusing" to inform Congress about a real threat to the safety of all Americans. "

"This is a new low for someone who has served his FCC mandate and refuses to do his job and defend US consumers," said Wyden.

In his letter to Pai last week, Pallone wrote:

Bad actors can use location information to track the physical movements of individuals without their knowledge or consent. While recent reports detailing the affordability, accuracy, and ease of legally and legally protected real-time location data are true, we must work quickly to address these public safety concerns. If we do not, the privacy and security of all people subscribed to the wireless service of some providers – including government officials, military personnel, victims of domestic violence and those responsible for it. law enforcement – risk being compromised.

Pallone noted that one of Pai's colleagues, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, had offered to make herself available to the committee, even though she did not have the power to direct the agency's resources.

"It's a matter of personal and national security," Gizmodo, a Democrat, Rosenworcel, told the phone. "It takes an investigation from the FCC, the public deserves answers. There is no excuse for the delay. She also agreed with Pallone's view that there was nothing in the law that prevented Pai from informing the committee during a closure.

"What strikes me the most, after spending some time studying this, is that it's a data ecosystem without any monitoring," she said. declared. It is also very disturbing, she said, that mobile operators, who have legitimate use of location data, have so easily surrendered control to "mediocre mediocre," who seem to have little qualms about use or use the data.

"It's not clear to me that I've ever consented to this happening, and I bet you do not have it either," she said, adding, "The FCC should investigate From the bottom up, we should audit to identify each of those third parties who had access to this information, and we should determine if consumers have already given their consent to this happening. "

T-Mobile, Sprint and AT & T have publicly announced their intention to terminate their contracts with location aggregators. These companies, like Zumigo, are responsible for transmitting location data from their consumers to unauthorized third parties, including, it seems, bail agents T-Mobile, the company that originally collected the location data. relevant for the motherboard survey, first indicated that it would do so about eight months ago. It recently announced the end of its aggregator contracts in March.

The country's other mobile operator, Verizon, whose data was not available for purchase in Motherboard, told Gizmodo to have broken its contracts involving the sale of location data to aggregator companies the year last.

"As you probably know, Verizon is not one of the companies cited in recent media accounts for tracking issues. We have kept our commitment to terminate bundling agreements and provide location information only with the express consent of our customers, "said a Verizon spokesperson.

The company added that it had maintained previous arrests with four roadside assistance companies during the winter "for reasons of public safety", but that these companies "had agreed to withdraw from existing arrangements by the end of March ".