Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz Introduces Legislation to Protect Phone Record Confidentiality

Bill would ban selling of private cell phone logs and information
February 15, 2006

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz announced that he has introduced legislation that will protect cell phone users from having their personal phone logs sold on the internet (A.9941).

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by State Senator Martin Golden. “Right now I can get anybody’s private information for less than $100,” said Assemblyman Dinowitz. “Our cell phone records are personal information. The fact that groups can access our personal records is a disgraceful violation of our civil liberties and privacy rights.”

Access to cell phone records is not only invasive, but dangerous since individuals can obtain the incoming and outgoing calls of people in law enforcement, victims of domestic violence, and others. Assemblyman Dinowitz’ bill will prohibit phone companies from releasing personal information to anyone except the account holder or an individual with a court order. Further, the bill will ban brokers from selling telephone account records or other personal information. It establishes a fine for violators and allows victims the right to private action.

Several public interest groups are supporting Assemblyman Dinowitz’ bill, including the Consumers Union, NYPIRG, NYCLU, and the AARP. “New Yorkers should be under no illusion: personal privacy is easily invaded; confidential information is routinely marketed, sold, and stolen,” said Robert A. Perry, legislative Director of the NYCLU. “This legislation is based on the proposition that the personal information a customer provides to a phone company is no one else’s business – unless the customer chooses to make it so. This is sound public policy.”

Consumers have a right to expect that their cell phone records will remain confidential, and not be sold by phone companies or information brokers to third parties,” said Chuck Bell of the Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine. “We strongly support the proposed bill introduced by Assemblyman Dinowitz to protect cell phone records, and we urge state lawmakers to act swiftly on this urgent issue.”

“Who you call and the numbers you call are your business and no one else’s,” said NYPIRG’s Legislative Counsel Russ Haven. “New Yorkers need to know they can call their clergyman, provide a tip to law enforcement, contact a potential business partner, or just ring up their kids at an unlisted number without some snoop instantly buying their call records off the Internet. This legislation will restore New Yorkers’ expectations of privacy when it comes to their phone records. NYPIRG applauds Assemblyman Dinowitz and Senator Golden for taking the lead in protecting the privacy of New Yorkers and working to safeguard their call information.”

"AARP commends Assemblyman Dinowitz for proposing this important legislation to protect an individual's privacy" said Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. "AARP has long supported protecting an individual's personal information and we believe this bill should be passed immediately and sent to the Governor for his approval."