Cantwell Applauds Committee Approval of Measure to End Unauthorized Sale of Private Cell Phone Records

Senator working to close loopholes, implement safeguards, keep private information off black market

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision Thursday to approve legislation making it a federal crime for anyone to obtain, or attempt to obtain, another person’s confidential phone records without authorization. Earlier this year, Cantwell joined Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) to push for passage of the bipartisan “Consumer Telephone Records Protection Act of 2006,” which would close existing loopholes and protect millions of American consumers against the growing black market sale of cell phone call logs. Today, online data brokers openly advertise their ability and willingness to obtain and sell any individual’s cell phone records, with no questions asked.

“When private cell phone records are at the fingertips of anyone willing to pay, we have a serious problem,” said Cantwell. “Today, Congress took an important step toward ending dangerous loopholes and strengthening vague laws that have put the privacy of millions of Americans at risk. I’m going to make sure we get this law passed, and will keep fighting to protect the privacy of all Americans. We need to make sure all sensitive personal information stays secure, including cell phone records.”

The Consumer Telephone Records Protection Act, co-sponsored by Cantwell, would ban false statements, knowingly providing false documents, and accessing customer accounts over the internet without authorization in an attempt to obtain cell phone records. The bill also bars individuals—including a data broker or any employee of a company that provides telephone service—from intentionally selling confidential phone records. For each violation, guilty parties would be subject to $250,000 in fines and five years in prison. The bill contains an exception for law enforcement activities.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee passed a similar bill, meaning that legislation to protect cell phone records is now ready for consideration by the full House and full Senate.