The FCC said the wireless carriers sold access to their customers' location information "without taking reasonable measures to protect against authorized access to that information." Motherboard reported earlier this year that data was being used by bounty hunters after being purchased from data brokers.
The proposed fines are: T-Mobile paying around $91 million, AT&T paying around $57 million, Verizon paying around $48 million, and Sprint paying around $12 million. The FCC launched an investigation in 2018.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that the fines show that the agency "will not tolerate phone companies putting Americans' privacy at risk."
Meanwhile, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, called the fines "a day late and a dollar short."
On Thursday, as reports surfaced of the impending fines, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called them "comically inadequate" and predicted that they "won't stop phone companies from abusing Americans' privacy the next time they can make a quick buck."
On Friday, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement that the FCC "dragged its feet" and "issued penalties that let these companies off easy."