Advocacy groups say AT&T violated Communications Act by selling records to CIA

Dec 12, 2013
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A lot of technology companies, social networks, and wireless carriers are under fire from consumer advocacy groups for selling or sharing private consumer data on phone calls and online habits with the federal government. A group of consumer advocacy firms led by a company called Public Knowledge filed a petition this week with the FCC. The petition hopes to get the FCC to say that AT&T violated a privacy rule in the Communications Act.

The advocacy groups maintain that AT&T violated that privacy rule when it sold phone records to the CIA. The allegations stem from a report that surfaced last month claiming AT&T charges the CIA over $10 million yearly to give the CIA access to metadata concerning overseas phone calls of suspected terrorists.

The advocacy groups say that they have filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling at the FCC seeking to get the FCC to declare the types of phone records AT&T is claimed to be selling the CIA as protected under Section 222 of the Communications Act. That particular section says that with few exceptions, the carrier has to get a customer's approval before they can share "customer proprietary network information" known as CPNI with the government or others.

The petition claims that AT&T is violating that rule by selling the identifiable call records to the CIA without customer consent. The advocacy groups say that after investigating, it found all four major wireless carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon think it's ok to sell this sort of information to anyone. The groups want the FCC to declare the carriers need customer consent to sell the data.

SOURCE: ArsTechnica


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