7 On Your Side

CPUC rejects investigation to update wireless privacy rules

Thursday, January 16, 2014

State regulators voted down looking at new restrictions to limit what information wireless providers can glean from your cellphone.

Privacy advocates are really concerned about this. Of greatest concern has been location tracking on your smart devices that reveals where you are whether you're at a bar, a doctor's office or a particular type of merchant.

Stand on almost any street corner and it shouldn't take long to find someone on the phone chatting away or perhaps checking their email or the Internet. Phones are everywhere and so are location trackers on those phones and the apps, monitoring your every move.

Mark Toney is executive director of The Utility Reform Network -- one of many consumer groups calling for updated rules. He told us, "We think there needs to be rules in the amount of information that's collected -- our text messages, our whereabouts, our web searches, our use of apps."

On Thursday the commission considered whether it was necessary to look into updating privacy protections which haven't been changed since 1986. California Public Utilities Commission Commissioner Mark Ferron was for the status quo. No changes he says are necessary.

"I find that the petitioners have not identified any sensitive customer information that is not already protected by the existing privacy laws and regulations. Nor have they documented any examples of actual breaches of customer privacy," said Ferron at the meeting.

But both Commissioner Catherine Sandoval and Commissioner Mark Florio pointed out that technology has advanced a long way since the last time rules were looked at, and those rules need to keep up with the advances.

"I think there may very well be a gap with respect to location information that simply wasn't available when most of the existing statutes and regulations were put in place," said Florio.

The commission voted 3-2 not to investigate updating the rules on privacy.

"That means business as usual. That means the cellphone companies get to do whatever they want with collecting our data, with selling our data, with releasing our data, with aggregating it without our consent , without our permission, without our knowledge and we don't think that's right," said Toney.

Ferron encouraged the commission to continuing monitoring the situation and urged further investigation down the line if necessary. This was Ferron's last meeting. He resigned due to his two year battle with prostate cancer.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
california public utilities commission, sacramento, cellphone, smartphones, 7 on your side, michael finney
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