FCC Investigates Phone-Records Theft, Sens. Introduce Bill

With the problem of identity theft running amuck, the FCC now is looking into reports of people using consumers Social Security numbers and other valuable information to steal wireless and wireline phone records.

The thieves accomplish this by calling a carrier and pretending to be the consumer they are targeting. The so-called data brokers then post the details of that persons account to Web sites that can be accessed by anyone including criminals.

The FCC had heard rumblings such activity was taking place and now that more press reports are surfacing, said this week it has launched an official investigation into the matter.

The inquiry must be a priority because every day such a problem exists puts American citizens needlessly at risk, said Democratic Commissioner Michael J. Copps in a news release. So, we must move swiftly to determine how and to what extent data brokers are obtaining Americans private phone records. The FCC also must determine if phone companies are doing enough to protect the personal and private information with which they are entrusted.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a public interest research center, last August filed a petition with the FCC, asking the governmental body to require phone companies to tighten their security standards. It was not clear why it has taken the FCC several months to launch an official investigation, which includes scrutiny of carriers. The FCC said it will check whether their data protection measures are up to par, and Copps Democratic colleague, Jonathan S. Adelstein, said he supports swift action against providers that have not complied with the FCCs rules.

These records can include some of the most private personal information about an individual. Finding out who people are calling and for how long can be like picking someones brain about their friends, plans or business dealings, he said, adding the commission must immediately ensure that we have strong consumer privacy rules in place and that phone companies are employing effective safeguards to shield this data from harm.

There was no comment from newly instated Republican Commissioner Deborah T. Tate or FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Also responding to reports of phone-records theft, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today introduced the Consumer Telephone Records Protection Act of 2006. The politicians want to criminalize the practice stealing and selling phone records.
Stealing someones private phone records is absolutely a criminal act and the fact that it cant be prosecuted as one has got to change, Schumer said in a statement Stealing a persons phone log can lead to serious personal, financial, and safety issues for just about any American.

Schumer is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Specter chairs that committee, and Bill Nelson is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Electronic Privacy Information Center
U.S. Senate


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