Magnarelli: Private Phone Records Need to be Protected

February 17, 2006
Recently, you may have heard the story of how an Internet Web site said it was able to buy the cell phone records of former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark. All Americanblog.com needed, it said, was Clark’s cell phone number and a credit card payment of $89.95 to receive 100 calls he made over a three-day period last November.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated case; this intrusive practice has become common. Increasingly, Web sites will hand over personal phone logs to anyone with a credit card number. No one should have their privacy infringed on and their confidential phone records sold over the Internet.

That’s why I’m sponsoring legislation which prohibits phone companies from releasing landline or cellular telephone account records or other personal information to anyone except the account holder or someone with a court order (A.9941).

Currently, anyone can access incoming and outgoing phone records made by any telephone number on the Internet for a fee. This practice is both invasive and dangerous since it can be used to obtain phone records of people in law enforcement, victims of domestic violence and others.

This bill will prohibit phone companies from releasing personal information to anyone except the account holder or an individual with a court order. Perhaps more important, my bill tackles the problem at its source. It bans brokers from selling telephone account records or other personal information. Individuals who violate the law will be fined, and victims will have the right to take private action against the offender.

This bill will build on the already successful “Do Not Call” registry. Since 2000, the state’s “Do Not Call” Telemarketing Registry has been protecting millions of New York consumers from unwelcome telemarketing calls. Registering your cell phone numbers with the registry is absolutely free and will not disrupt any protection of previously registered phone numbers. I also support a bill including fax machine numbers to the “Do Not Call” registry to further protect consumers (A.9858). If you haven’t signed up for the “Do Not Call” registry, you can do so by visiting www.donotcall.gov.

Private telephone records need to remain private. I, along with my colleagues in the Assembly, will continue fighting to protect the privacy of New Yorkers.