Ina Fried

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FCC to Clarify Rules on How Carriers Can Use Customer’s Call Data

The Federal Communications Commission is gearing up to issue a ruling explaining just how cellphone operators are able to use a customer’s call data.

Mignon Clyburn

The so-called declaratory ruling will be part of the commission’s open meeting later this month.

“This important declaratory ruling will help ensure that private consumer information — such as the time, duration, and location of calls from a mobile device — will be protected,” acting FCC Chair Mignon Clyburn said in a statement. “Millions of wireless consumers must have confidence that personal information about calls will remain secure even if that information is stored on a mobile device.”

The ruling would clarify when carriers need a customer’s consent and also directs the carriers to ensure they are taking appropriate safeguards to prevent the information from falling into the wrong hands.

It would apply only to call data such as the number called, the length of the call and where a user was when on the call. It applies only to the carriers, not to device makers or companies that create cellphone operating systems.

Carriers will still be able to collect such information, which can help them to target weak areas in their network as well as busy areas in need of more equipment. However, they would need consent before transferring that information to a third party.

The genesis of the ruling dates back to late 2011 when a flap erupted over the operators’ use of software from Carrier IQ that allowed tracking of various information.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work