Saturday, January 07, 2006

Cell Phone Privacy Sold for $110


Chicago Sun Times Crime Reporter Frank Main bombshell privacy story (linked above) tells of a web site called LocateCell (one of dozens of similar services) where the cell phone records of any phone can be purchased for $110 for a list, plus $50 more for length of calls.

The Chicago Police Department is warning it's undercover officers not to make personal calls on their undercover phones. The FBI ran a test of the service, paid $160 to see the cell phone calls of one of their own FBI agents and had the results in three hours.

Obviously this service is not illegal or it would be shut down quickly. New laws must be passed to outlaw the sale of phone records. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), has called for legislation to outlaw phone record theft and use. Illinois Gov. Blagojevich announced he will seek legislation this spring making it illegal for brokers to sell telephone account records and other personal information.

The legislation proposed by the Illinois governor also would ban phone companies from releasing information to anyone except the account holder, law enforcement agencies or someone with a court order. Phone companies would have to maintain tight security and notify customers of breaches.

The only requirements to use the service are a credit card and a phone number you want to see the call list for. Spouses checking up on wandering mates can easily check up on the calls made from their cell phones. Private investigators routinely use the services. The dangers to abused spouses is clear. Criminals stalking anyone with a cell phone could pose a real threat with phone number information easily available on their targets.

But how are the web services that sell the phone records obtaining that data? Verizon Wireless has filed lawsuits in Tennessee and Florida against companies that sold Verizon customers' phone records.

In December, Cingular Wireless LLC sued Data Find Solutions and 1st Source Information Specialists in federal court in Atlanta, claiming they obtained and sold customers' confidential information through improper hacking and unauthorized access to online account information in Cingular's computer network.

Is it possible that only hacking is to blame or are the phone companies simply to lax with who they release information to? Maybe they profit from selling those numbers themselves? Maybe not, but how is that dozens of online businesses are able to sell that information if it is not readily available? The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a petition with the FCC seeking an end to the sale of telephone records.

Something must be done soon to stop theft and sale of phone records. Thank you to the Chicago Sun Times Frank Main for unearthing this privacy nightmare.

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posted by RealitySEO at 7:22 PM

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