Major US Carriers Fined $196 Million for Illegal Sale of Customer Location Data

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Today, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it has imposed a collective fine of $196 million on the country’s largest wireless carriers – AT&T, Verizon,  and Sprint/T-Mobile. The penalties were levied for the carriers’ illegal sharing of customer location data with third parties without obtaining proper consent. This is not the first time that the US FCC has imposed such a fine. Recall that in 2020, the US FCC also fined all major user carriers over $208 million for selling consumer location data.

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Violations of Consumer Privacy

The FCC’s investigation, which began in 2019, revealed that the carriers had been selling real-time location data from customer devices to third-party data aggregators. This data was then resold to a wide range of entities, including private investigators, bounty hunters, law enforcement agencies, credit card companies, and other organizations. The FCC determined that this practice violated federal law by failing to protect the privacy of consumer information.

Fines Reflect Severity of Violations

The fines imposed on the carriers were calculated based on the duration of the illegal data-sharing practices and the number of entities that gained unauthorized access to the location information. T-Mobile was assessed the highest fine at $80 million, followed by AT&T at $57 million and Verizon at $47 million. Sprint, which has since been acquired by T-Mobile, was fined $12 million.

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Carriers’ Responses and Challenges

The carriers have responded with varying reactions to the FCC’s decision. T-Mobile and AT&T have stated that they intend to challenge the fines, arguing that the penalties are excessive and that the FCC’s findings lack legal and factual merit. Verizon, on the other hand, has not yet issued a public statement regarding the matter.

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FCC’s Commitment to Consumer Protection

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel emphasized the importance of protecting consumers’ sensitive personal information, stating that the carriers “failed to protect the information entrusted to them.” The FCC has vowed to hold all carriers accountable and ensure they uphold their obligations to safeguard their customers’ data.

The $196 million in fines imposed by the FCC serves as a stark reminder of the consequences for telecom companies that disregard consumer privacy and engage in the unauthorized sharing of sensitive location data. This case also underscores the FCC’s commitment to enforcing strict regulations and safeguarding the privacy of American consumers.


Recently, the FCC after an investigation had to impose a collective fine of $196 million on major wireless carriers. The FCC claims that the carriers illegally shared customers’ location data. This action highlights a critical stance on consumer privacy protection. The fines range from $12 million to $80 million. It reflects the severity of the violations and the FCC’s commitment to upholding privacy laws.

Despite carriers expressing intentions to challenge the fines, the FCC insists on holding companies accountable. FCC says it will continue to ensure the protection of users’ sensitive data. This underscores the importance of stringent regulations in protecting consumer privacy. This significant enforcement serves as a clear message that illegal sharing of personal information will remain a violation. It also reinforces the FCC’s dedication to safeguarding the privacy of American consumers.

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