Yes to phone privacy

A lot of things have changed since 1986, but California’s rules regarding consumer privacy and mobile phones aren’t among them. It’s time for the California Public Utilities Commission to step in and look at how telecommunications companies are using data from our smartphones and update privacy protections.

Twenty-five years ago, handheld mobile phones were shoe-box-size accessories for the rich and famous that did little more than send and receive calls. Today, they are practically a necessity for people in all walks of life, and their advanced technology allows service providers to gather massive amounts of detailed information about individual consumers. Telecommunications companies today make good money providing info on your whereabouts, searches, buying habits and data to marketers.

Needless to say, the practice isn’t covered in the 1986 regulations, and Catherine Sandoval, CPUC’s commissioner, has proposed to review the situation at its meeting on January 16, 2014. Not surprisingly, telecommunications companies including AT&T and Verizon Wireless would prefer that the practice remain unregulated, and they’ve been lobbying the commissioners to forgo any reappraisal. There’s a good chance the CPUC will decide not to review the privacy guidelines—unless consumers make it clear that isn’t acceptable.

A CPUC review of mobile-phone-privacy protections is long overdue. We urge concerned readers to contact commissioners Carla J. Peterman at (415) 703-1407 and Michel P. Florio a (415) 703-2440, and let them know this important issue needs to be on the CPUC’s January 16 agenda.