Can Internet Companies Sell My Phone Records?
Not according to federal regulators. In the latest of a series of small victories for privacy, a federal judge ordered a Wyoming company to stop selling confidential consumer phone records without the consumers? knowledge or consent.
In Jan. 2008, US District Judge William F. Downes of Wyoming barred AccuSearch and its principal, Jay Patel, from selling the records on a website called Abika.com. The judge further ordered the company to turn over nearly $200,000 generated from the sale of the records and notify all consumers affected by the privacy breech.
The FTC filed suit nearly two years ago against Abika.com and several other web-based businesses that marketed confidential phone records–including details of outgoing and incoming calls–to their clients on the Internet for a fee. It?s already successfully settled two of those cases and obtained a default judgment in a third.
### The Telecommunications Act of 1996 states customers’ phone records are their private property and can be disclosed only to the customer or with the approval of the customer. But the FTC alleged companies like Abika.com obtained the information from third parties, which obtained them through ?false pretenses, fraudulent statements, fraudulent, stolen documents or other misrepresentations.
Obtaining personal information under false circumstances is known as pretexting. Pretexters sell your information to people who may use it to get credit in your name, steal your assets, or to investigate or sue you, the FTC stated. Consequently, the court ruled, the sale of the records created a menace to consumers because it potentially exposed them to stalkers, identity thieves and costs of changing phone carriers.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center suggests several steps consumers can take to protect themselves:
- Make sure the phone is in your name. If the name of anyone else is on the bill, that person has access to your records.
- Put a password on your phone account.
- Notify your phone company that you do not want it to sell or market your records.