I’ve been a licensed member of the Ham Radio community for a few years now. While I haven’t been active much in the past few months, there’s always been one thing has really been a sore spot for me: the need for the Ham radio community to know your physical location.
The FCC considers Ham Radio licenses to be in the public record. That includes your name and mailing address. You can use any address that you can receive mail at, such as a neighbors house, a PO Box, or a private mailbox service, and the FCC is perfectly fine with this. The Ham Radio community is big on geolocation data when exchanging messages, and frequently query the FCC database and use the information that you’ve provided to direct antennas, mail you QSL cards, or even to provide you other things. So, having an address that isn’t immediately near your actual, physical location will get you questioned, or sometimes even scolded, by your fellow operators.
In 2015, the FCC sought comments on an NPRM that would increase the privacy of previous address information on licenses. The FCC themselves admitted that this was a “partial solution,” as previous address information would still be visible. To date, there haven’t been any significant changes made in the ULS system that would help protect the privacy of individual operators, and previous address information is still available for licenses. Some ham radio forums even publish your address information as part of their site updates, which writes that information onto the internet with ink — an ink that’s hard, or even impossible, to remove.
In an age of almost-daily security breaches and compromises involving sensitive or compromising information, everyone should be conscious of the information that’s available about them in public databases. Maintaining a publicly searchable database of addresses is in stark contrast to this, and keeping an address that’s not near to your physical address or location seems to run afoul to standard operating practice in the community.
With this, I’m filing an FCC 605 form to cancel my license, and I strongly encourage the FCC to consider privacy-supporting changes for the ULS system for the future.