House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said Monday that FCC chair Ajit Pai had "refused" to brief committee staffers on an issue Pallone considers one that poses a threat to life and property, something the FCC is supposed to be able to deal with even during the government shutdown.
Pallone asked the FCC chairman to brief the committee on a report by Motherboard that wireless carriers were disclosing consumer real-time location data without authorization. He wanted to know what the FCC was doing about it.
Although the chairman and commissioners are on the job, the FCC is shuttered for business except for auctions and issues that threaten life or property. Pallone signaled unauthorized sharing of consumer and first responder location data qualified.
"There’s nothing in the law that should stop the chairman personally from meeting about this serious threat that could allow criminals to track the location of police officers on patrol, victims of domestic abuse, or foreign adversaries to track military personnel on American soil," said Pallone.
“Today, FCC chairman Ajit Pai refused to brief Energy and Commerce Committee staff on the real-time tracking of cell phone location, as reported by Motherboard last week," Pallone said. "In a phone conversation today, [Pai's] staff asserted that these egregious actions are not a threat to the safety of human life or property that the FCC will address during the Trump shutdown....The safety of first responders and consumers should be a top priority for the Chairman and the FCC."
Pallone said that Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel had been available for a briefing despite the shutdown, but she doesn't have Pai's authority over FCC resources.
"As we told Committee staff today, the Commission has been investigating wireless carriers' handling of location information," said an FCC spokesperson. "Unfortunately, we were required to suspend that investigation earlier this month because of the lapse in funding, and pursuant to guidance from our expert attorneys, the career staff that is working on this issue are currently on furlough. Of course, when the Commission is able to resume normal operations, the investigation will continue."
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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