An American telecom company, which provides correctional-facility telephone services, has come under fire for harvesting location data on American phone users and selling it to the police with no oversight.
In view of this, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and wireless carriers to investigate how Securus Technologies had been permitted to purchase records on people’s whereabouts and share it with law enforcement agencies.
In a letter to the FCC this week, Sen. Wyden demanded the FCC and wireless phone companies investigate the unauthorized and likely-illegal tracking of Americans’ mobile phones by a company that provides phone services to prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities.
Senator Wyden said that he recently learned that Securus Technologies “purchases real-time location information from major wireless carriers and provides the information, via a self-service web portal, for nothing more than the legal equivalent of a pinky promise,” Wyden wrote in his letter to the FCC.
“This practice skirts wire carriers’ legal obligation to be the sole conduit by which the government conducts surveillance of Americans’ phone records, and needlessly exposes millions of American citizens to potential abuse and surveillance by the government,” he said.
“It is incredibly troubling that Securus provides location data to the government at all, let alone that it does so without a verified court order or other legal processes,” Wyden wrote.
Senator Wyden also wrote to the major U.S. wireless carriers requesting them to investigate what, if any, safeguards they have in place to prevent this kind of abuse of Americans’ security and privacy. The senator also asked them for a list of all the private companies to which they have provided customer location data and demanded that they provide consumers with information detailing how many firms have obtained their location data.
According to a recent report by the New York Times, Securus said its service relies on cell tower data rather than the GPS data originating from an individual’s phone, suggesting that there may have been a distinction under the law between these two data sets, although they both boil down to map coordinates.