by CIO Staff

House to Investigate Cell Industry Privacy Safeguards

Feb 01, 20062 mins

As the cell phone becomes the dominant form of communication throughout the world, con artists and thieves alike have developed schemes and tricks to cash in on unsuspecting cell providers and their customers.

The past few weeks have seen the nation’s four largest cellular carriers-Cingular, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile-file lawsuits against cell phone “data brokers” they say illegally obtained and sold customer call records.

For that reason, a Congressional hearing will be held today to discuss the extent of the problem, what carriers are doing to prevent it, whether it’s enough, and the possibility of enacting legislation that would impose stricter penalties on persons found guilty of stealing customer records, The New York Times reports.

“People who sell this data need to have a verification system, and they don’t,” said John Pescatore, a security analyst with Gartner.  “The enforcement is lax.”

Terry Lane, a spokesperson for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the body that scheduled the hearing, said there are already laws in place that prohibit the use of misleading tactics to garner phone records.  The Federal Trade Commission can currently impose civil penalties for deceptive trade practice, but Lane noted that Congress might want to increase those penalties in light of recent events.

The FCC recently threatened AT&T and Alltel with fines for not properly protecting their customers’ call records.  Read FCC May Fine AT&T, Alltel for more.

For background on the Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile lawsuits, read Wireless Data Brokers Sued By Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile Aims to Stop Call Record Sales, Temporary Protection for T-Mobile Customers.

For updates, keep checking in at our CIO News Alerts page.

-Al Sacco