Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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1/9/2006
03:12 PM
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For Sale: Your Phone Records

Rack it up as another chink in your already scuffed and dented privacy armor. Your cell phone records can be had for a relatively small chunk of change. That's right, for $110, I can buy records of the last 100 calls made from your cell phone. I can also buy incoming calls, duration and time of call, names and addresses for unlisted numbers, and

Rack it up as another chink in your already scuffed and dented privacy armor. Your cell phone records can be had for a relatively small chunk of change. That's right, for $110, I can buy records of the last 100 calls made from your cell phone. I can also buy incoming calls, duration and time of call, names and addresses for unlisted numbers, and the list goes on. Somehow, it's (sort of) legal, and the government has known about it for a while. And here I thought it was bad that New York state police can get call logs without a warrant.Canada's Maclean's magazine used the "services" of LocateCell.com two months ago to prove a point by acquiring the call logs of the country's top privacy officer. Here's how they lead: "When even the privacy commissioner's cell phone records are available online, we've all got security problems." You can say that again.

Aforementioned LocateCell.com is apparently only one of several companies that sell this information. Add to that list similarly single-minded companies and a host of private investigators who will track down phone records for the so-inclined. Take BestPeopleSearch.com, for example. Or take the beaming testimonials on its site.

Telephone companies are supposed to protect this information, according to the FCC. They can't give it out without your approval. However, the "service" that LocateCell provides may well fall into some grey area of law where the tactics to get the information are usually illegal, but selling it isn't.

Meanwhile, at least one television news producer found that LocateCell.com tricked Cingular Wireless into giving out his records despite company regulations against the practice. As if I already didn't have great faith in my cell phone provider.

Keep reading if you want to hear more inanity. Privacy groups have been shouting about this since at least last summer, but there's still been no action in Congress or the FCC. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has pushed for legislation to criminalize the selling of cell phone records, but that legislation apparently sits idle. A proposed Illinois law may be the first of its kind if passed. Of course there are competing measures that might make it less necessary for companies to notify consumers when upon breaches of data security.

Why this isn't all already completely illegal boggles my mind. Then again, if even the government can't get data protection straight, how can I expect them to mandate the same of the private sector?

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