Consumer Advocates Angry That New Privacy Law Erodes Oversight Of Telecom Monopolies


Publish Date:
August 11, 2022
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In conversations with numerous consumer advocates and experts in recent weeks, I’ve noticed a weird tension going on both inside and between many consumer groups because of this. Many groups don’t want anything to undermine the nation’s first chance at a real privacy law, so they’re either reticent to mention it at all, or don’t want their employees making too much noise about it.

As a result you’ve got a mish mash of consumer advocates swimming upstream a bit, like Barbara Van Schewick at Stanford, some folks at the EFF, and Harold Feld. Folks who note that this could have a profound impact on FCC authority moving forward, and in the short term could scuttle investigations like the FCC’s recently announced (and painfully late) inquiry into wireless carrier location data:

“If the law is passed, ongoing FCC regulatory actions against industry privacy practices would no longer have legal standing. That includes an investigation launched last month into what data the top 15 mobile providers in the U.S. collect and how they use it after. Companies under investigation include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Google. The FCC requested a response by Aug 3. The agency in 2020 proposed $208 million in fines against several major telecommunications companies for selling customer location information, including to bounty hunters. The fines are still pending.

That alone could net the telecom sector hundreds of millions of dollars, well worth any lobbying bill. Longer term, the windfall for telecom would be incalculable.

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