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FCC slaps carriers with $10 million fee for customer privacy violations

For the first time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued fines over data security. The fines in question, totaling $10 million, are directed toward phone carriers TerraCom and YourTel over a breach of consumer privacy.

The fines, according to the FCC, stem from both carriers leaving sensitive customer information, such as addresses, Social Security numbers, and driver’s licenses, in a way that was not only easily accessible, but can be easily read on the Internet. All that information was initially gathered to determine eligibility for the Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline program. The program offers discounted phone services for low-income consumers.

Related: T-Mobile wants better coverage in your home, and it’s begging the FCC to make it happen

Incredibly, despite being alerted to a security breach as a result of the easy access to personal information, TerraCom and YourTel failed to communicate it to their 305,000 customers. As you can imagine, FCC chief of the enforcement bureau Travis LeBlanc wasn’t exactly thrilled by these carriers’ actions.

“Consumers trust that when phone companies ask for their Social Security number, driver’s license, and other personal information, these companies will not put that information on the Internet or otherwise expose it to the world,” said LeBlanc. “When carriers break that trust, the Commission will take action to ensure that they are held accountable for unjust and unreasonable data security practices.”

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