Thursday, March 16, 2006

Brautigam introduces bill to prohibit sale of private cell phone records
AUGUSTA – A proposal offered by Rep. John Brautigam could make Maine one of the first states in the nation to halt a practice in which dealers acquire the private records of cell phone consumers and sell them for a fee on the internet. Representatives from major cell phone providers, private investigators, the Maine Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Safety support a bill before the Legislature’s Utilities and Energy Committee that would make selling the records a crime.

Brautigam, D-Falmouth, was one of the first legislators in the country to work to close the legal loophole that allows companies that acquire private cell phone records to sell them over the internet, usually for a price of about $100 for a month’s worth of the records of virtually any cell phone user.

Brautigam presented his bill, LD 2038 – An Act to Protect the Privacy of Cellular Telephone Users, before the Utilities Committee in a public hearing on March 16, saying consumers expect that their cell phone records are kept private and he was outraged to learn how easily the information can be obtained.

He cited a recent case in Maine where a criminal purchased the records of an accomplice who turned out to be an undercover police officer, effectively blowing the officer’s cover and putting his life, and the lives of his family, in danger.

There are several cell phone record dealers with operations based in Maine. Cell phone providers Verizon Wireless, Cingular and Sprint/Nextel sent representatives to speak in favor of the bill as well, saying that “Data Brokers” are a blight on the industry.

No one spoke in opposition to the bill. The Committee will take it up in an upcoming work session, offer amendments and then send it to the entire House for a vote.


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