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Data Security: Protecting the Privacy of Phone Records

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Publication Date: February 2006

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL33287

Topic: Media, telecommunications, and information (Telephone)


The privacy of cellular telephone records has the potential to become a highpriority item on the congressional agenda. The Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and State Attorneys General are investigating the practices of companies that sell customer calling records for wireless and landline phones to determine whether they are in compliance with current confidentiality protections for customer information. Several federal bills have been introduced to address the breach of phone customers' privacy and to prevent the fraudulent acquisition of telephone records. Hearings have been held in both the House and Senate regarding the sale of phone records, and the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are scheduled to mark up legislation beginning on March 1. The FCC has granted a petition for a rulemaking to determine whether enhanced security and authentication standards for access to customer telephone records are warranted. The FTC is investigating data brokers involved in the practice of selling telephone records and is working with the FCC, which has jurisdiction over telecommunications carriers. At least five states have sued data brokers to enjoin the acquisition and sale of customer records. This report provides a brief discussion of efforts to protect the privacy of customer telephone records. For additional information, see CRS Report RL31636, Wireless Privacy and Spam: Issues for Congress, by Marcia S. Smith. This report will be updated when warranted.