Congress passed new rules outlawing the selling of cellphone records, called "pretexting." The issue came to light when Americablog purchased the cell phone records of then-presidential candidate Wesley Clark for $89. Congress mumbled and moaned, lobbyists jumped into to save the poor sellers of personal data, but in the end, the Congress finally passed "The Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act (ATRAPP ACT), H.R. 4709," declaring it illegal to use deception and fraud to obtain and sell confidential phone records.
The full text of the Senator's press release is below. The Senator says that he and Senator Specter hope to work on more data privacy legislation when Congress resumes.
"Leahy Hails Passage Of Pretexting Bill
…One of Few Measures Passed in Lame-Duck Session
Would Protect Telephone Users’ Privacy
By Making Practice of Pretexting Illegal
WASHINGTON (Monday, December 11) -- Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., today lauded the passage of a bipartisan bill that would protect the privacy interests of millions of American consumers who use cell phones by making the act of “pretexting” a crime. Pretexting is the use of fraud and deception to acquire consumer phone records.
Despite delays by some to stall the bill, Congress finally passed The Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act (ATRAPP ACT), H.R. 4709, which clarifies that it is illegal to use deception and fraud to obtain and sell confidential phone records. The bill ensures that the Department of Justice has the legal authority to seek criminal penalties and up to 10 years imprisonment for anyone who engages in pretexting to obtain phone records fraudulently. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law later this month.
The legislation also preserves the rights of State and local governments to enforce their own privacy laws, to best protect the privacy rights of consumers. “Preserving the interests of the States to protect consumer privacy was a particular concern of mine,” said Leahy, the ranking Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee. “The bill’s passage was complicated by efforts of the Administration and others to use it as a vehicle to granting immunity to telephone companies that have shared private customer information with the Government as part of the President’s wiretapping program of Americans without warrants or court approval.”
Leahy worked closely with the bill’s leading cosponsors, Senators Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Bill Nelson, D-FL., to get an essentially identical Senate measure, S. 2178, through the Judiciary Committee and the TRAPP Act approved by the Senate.
“Consumer telephone records have become a hot commodity and this information is a treasure trove for those who would misuse it to make a profit or who exploit it for harmful purposes,” he said “More and more, this sensitive personal information is being collected, stored and disseminated without our knowledge or consent.”
Leahy has been a leading crusader in Congress for the protection of privacy rights, copyright protections and freedom of speech on the Internet. He was a co-founder and remains a co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus. He has taken the lead on several privacy issues, including Internet and medical records privacy. Leahy held Congress’s first hearing in 1994 on privacy concerns relating to electronic medical records.
Leahy is the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the new, 110th Congress.
“Now that Congress has finally acted to address the specific issue of phone pretexting, I hope that the Senate will promptly act on the more comprehensive privacy bill that Senator Specter and I have cosponsored -- the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act, S. 1789 – which I intend to reintroduce next year,” he said. “This important measure requires companies that have databases with sensitive personal information about Americans to establish and implement data privacy and security programs. The bill also requires that data brokers provide notice to consumers when their sensitive personal information has been compromised.”"