Magazine article Information Management

Stopping the Sale of Cell Phone Records

Magazine article Information Management

Stopping the Sale of Cell Phone Records

Article excerpt

Several Internet sites that sold customer information pertaining to calls made to and from cellular phones are now the targets of lawsuits from cell phone providers as well as of federal and state legislation aiming to ban the practice.

In recent months, wireless providers Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp., and T-Mobile have filed separate lawsuits against data brokers that operate websites they say illegally obtained customer phone records.

For a fee of $100 or less and a provided cell phone number, such Internet operations will disclose subscriber name and address or a record of calls made.

Wireless executives and federal regulators contend that the data brokers - eFindOutTheTruth.com, Data Find Solutions Inc., and 1st Source Information Specialists Inc., to name a few - rely on illegal tactics to obtain the information. One suspected method is to pose as customers seeking information about their own accounts.

In some cases, the people buying call records may have a legitimate need for them. Lawyers, for instance, may need records as part of an investigation. But privacy experts said the companies obtaining and selling the records do not have systems in place to confirm that the person requesting the information has a right to it.

"People who sell this data need to have a verification system, and they don't," John Pescatore, a Gartner security analyst, told the New York Times. "The enforcement is lax."

Wireless companies also support legislation proposing increased criminal and civil penalties against companies that fraudulently obtain and sell wireless phone customer records.

The Consumer Telephone Records Protection Act of 2006 (S. 2178), introduced by senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Charles E. Schumer (R-NY), Harry Reid (D-NV), Conrad Burns (R-MT), and John Cornyn (R-TX), would make stealing and selling cell phone, landline, and voice over Internet protocol records a felony.

The legislation would make it a federal offense to obtain customer information from a telephone service provider by false pretenses or access a customer account on the Internet to obtain billing information without authorization. The bill also would make it a crime for phone company employees to sell customer information without proper authorization. …

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