The Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday voted to approve the Protecting Consumer Phone Records Act, which prevents companies and individuals from fraudulently obtaining consumers private phone records in a practice known as pretexting.
The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
The act covers wireless, wireline and IP telephony services, and makes it illegal to acquire, use or sell a persons confidential phone records without that persons written consent, which can be given electronically.
Under the bill, a carrier must notify a customer if someone without authorization gains access to that persons phone records. It also gives the FCC and FTC authority to enforce the statute against pretexting. For example, it directs the FCC to make sure its phone record regulations are similar to regulations at the FTC that protect financial information under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
It also streamlines the two-step FCC process for fining phone record theft by non-carriers, such as databrokers and Web sites selling the information. As it stands, this process can tip off parties that are not regulated by the FCC that they are under investigation because the FCC must issue a notice before it can conduct enforcement action. The penalty for each violation is $30,000 with a cap of $3 million for any continuing violation.
The legislation also extends the one-year statute of limitations for pursuing violations to two years; allows phone companies and individual subscribers to sue privacy thieves; establishes a national standard for phone record protection requirements; allows state officials to enforce the law; and requires phone companies to certify their compliance annually.
Senate Commerce Committee http://commerce.senate.gov