PROTECTING THE PRIVACY OF YOUR PHONE RECORDS
February 2, 2006
Would you be surprised to learn that anyone with $100 dollars and your phone number can obtain information about every call you made or received over the last month? I certainly was. So much so, that I plan to introduce the Law Enforcement and Phone Privacy Protection Act of 2006 to bring a halt to this dangerous and invasive practice.
The reality is that telephone records are widely available to any person who is willing to pay a small fee. A simple Internet search returns numerous websites that offer to obtain call histories. This information can be extremely revealing. Your call history is essentially a record of everyone you interact with including your doctor, business associates, and any other public or private relationship you have - and it should not be available for unauthorized sale on the Internet!
Even worse, these sites can be used by criminals to access personal information about their intended victims. Recently, the Chicago Police Department issued a warning to their officers that personal information such as home phone numbers may be easily obtained by criminals. There are also concerns that the location of domestic violence victims or confidential informants may be revealed by accessing confidential private call records.
The primary method data brokers use to obtain this information is known as "pretexting". This involves a data broker with some key information - a cell phone number and possibly a social security number - pretending to be the subscriber to get information about an account. The Law Enforcement and Phone Privacy Protection Act puts a stop to this by imposing criminal penalties for "pretexting," as well as other methods of seeking to obtain such records through the use of fraud. By targeting both unauthorized vendors and those who seek unauthorized access to phone records, my bill will provide prosecutors with a needed deterrent and ensure that violators receive an appropriate punishment.
Perhaps most importantly, the Law Enforcement and Phone Privacy Protection Act will provide additional punishment for those who illegally obtain or sell phone records knowing they will be used in a criminal act. This is extremely important for the protection of law enforcement officers and victims of domestic violence.
We all use telephones and cell phones under the assumption that information about who we receive calls from and make calls to is confidential. The fact that this is not currently the case is disconcerting to say the least. You can be sure I will work to have this legislation quickly considered by the Judiciary Committee and voted on in the full House of Representatives. Your phone records are not public information and it is time they cease to be treated that way.