As part of a far-reaching examination of consumer privacy issues in America, Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-45), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, sent the following letter to the leaders of five major industry trade associations (USTelecom, NCTA, CTIA, CEA, ITI):
July 18, 2011
Mr. Walter B. McCormick, Jr.
President & CEO
US Telecom Association
Dear Mr. McCormick,
As the Chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade and also as a member of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, I am committed to safeguarding the privacy rights of American consumers.
We have all seen the headlines about the rapidly spreading phone hacking and police bribery scandal in the United Kingdom. According to press reports, a growing number of individuals in the United Kingdom are accused of unscrupulous and potentially illegal activities. Understanding that the events in the United Kingdom have not been connected to any activity within the United States, I nonetheless believe it's critically important to ask American industries involved in all parts of the communications stream of commerce -- from device manufacturers to fixed wire and wireless providers -- whether they are satisfied that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent similar privacy breaches here in the United States. As a result, I respectfully request an answer to the following questions no later than August 2, 2011.
1. As communications through voice over internet protocol (VOIP), smartphones and other mobile devices become more integrated in our daily lives, do you expect to see a rise in phone hacking here in the United States (involving both personal conversations and voicemails) as criminals search for new ways to steal valuable information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers and Social Security numbers?
2. At present, what safeguards do your member companies employ to ensure that American consumers are adequately protected against the type of phone hacking scandal currently being investigated in the United Kingdom?
3. In the wake of this scandal, do your member companies believe it is necessary to adopt new practices to ensure that consumers in the United States are better protected in the future?
4. Do you believe existing laws and regulations adequately protect consumers in the United States from phone hacking and similar privacy breaches?
5. Approximately how many phone hacking incidents are reported by your member companies in a year? Are the number of incidents growing or declining?
6. As a matter of practice, are phone hacking incidents, or suspected incidents, reported to law enforcement agencies and regulatory agencies?
7. From a technological standpoint, how difficult is it to hack into cell phones or other mobile devices?
8. What steps can consumers take on their own to better protect their personally identifiable information when communicating through either fixed wire or wireless devices?
Thank you for your attention to and assistance in this matter.
MARY BONO MACK
Member of Congress