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Group files FCC petition to curb phone carriers' call-records sharing

A public-interest group filed a petition Wednesday with the Federal Communications Commission seeking a declaration that phone carriers are violating the Communications Act by sharing customers' call logs with third parties.  

Public Knowledge, a Washington advocacy group, said it investigated carriers' privacy policies after a media report that AT&T had been selling records of customers' phone calls to the CIA. It said AT&T is not the only carrier with lax policies, citing  Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint.

Carriers "have privacy policies that indicate they believe it is OK to sell or share similar records," the group said in a statement. 

Inquiries seeking comment from Verizon and AT&T were not immediately returned Wednesday. 

In an email, a T-Mobile spokesman said the company sells customer's data only to third parties in three cases: "One, we obtain the user’s consent; two, we provide it in aggregate form; or three, we anonymize the data."

A spokeswoman for Sprint declined to comment. 

Public Knowledge was joined by 11 other groups in filing the petition. They include the Center for Digital Democracy and the Benton Foundation 

“Consumers have no choice but to share vast quantities of personal and private information about themselves with phone carriers in order to obtain service, which is an absolute necessity in the modern age," said Laura Moy, staff attorney at Public Knowledge. "Americans should be able to rest assured that carriers can’t just turn around and secretly share or sell that information with marketers or the government without consent."

The New York Times reported last month that AT&T had a voluntary agreement with the CIA to sell customer phone records for more than $10 million a year.

At the time, an AT&T spokesman declined to comment on the report and said the company does not comment on issues involving national security. 

[Updated Dec. 11, 1:15 p.m.: The post was updated to include carrier comments from T-Mobile and Sprint.]

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