Saturday, May 13, 2006

Governor signs bill to protect private cell records

AUGUSTA – Governor John Baldacci signed a bill into law on May 9th that will protect the private records and data of cell phone users, by making it illegal for data brokers to sell the information in Maine.

State Rep. John Brautigam, D-Falmouth, introduced the bill because there is no provision in federal law preventing the sale of private records and personal data from cell phones. Land-line records are already protected under federal law.

Brautigam 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.
Unscrupulous dealers charge about $100 for a month’s worth of the records of virtually any cell phone user. Disgruntled spouses and partners, suspicious employers who think their employees may be seeking new jobs, or businesspeople trying to get a leg up on their competition can easily purchase the records and use them against unsuspecting victims.

Brautigam’s legislation is being used as a model for other states, and was recognized by representatives from Sprint/Nextel as one of the best consumer protection laws nationwide to address the loophole.

Along with call records, the bill also protects any information stored on consumers’ phones from being sold. Brautigam said that companies can install new “spyware” technology on cell phones that allows them to recover anything loaded onto the phone – including photos, stored phone numbers and text-messages – and sell them along with call records.

The bill passed in the Legislature as emergency legislation, allowing the new law to take effect immediately.


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