TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: US Phone Data Privacy Bill Gets Final Push From Congress

US Phone Data Privacy Bill Gets Final Push From Congress

Peter Kaplan, Reuters (
Mon, 04 Dec 2006 17:07:33 -0600

By Peter Kaplan

WASHINGTON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Monday mounted a final
effort to pass legislation this year to ban the use of deceptive
methods to obtain consumers telephone records.

Democrats and Republicans sought a deal that would clear the way for
the Senate to approve the measure before the Republican-led 109th
Congress draws to a close, likely at the end of this week, Senate
leadership aides said.

The legislation was approved earlier this year by the House of
Representatives. Both chambers need to pass it so it can be sent to
President George W. Bush to sign into law.

If the 109th Congress expires before a final agreement is reach on the
legislation, lawmakers would have to begin anew on the effort after
the 110th Congress convenes on Jan. 4 under the control of Democrats.

"This is just one of those (bills) that we can see pass," one GOP aide

The legislation is aimed at stopping the practice of impersonating
people to obtain their telephone records, also known as pretexting.

There currently is no law against the practice which was spotlighted
when Hewlett-Packard Co. <HPQ.N> admitted that its investigators
obtained telephone records of board members, employees and journalists
without their permission as the company tried to find who was leaking
sensitive information.

The latest efforts to pass the legislation came as the Republican-led
Congress began a final, week-long session.

The phone records measure is one of several that would be passed under
unanimous consent, a process by which leaders from both parties agree
to bring a bill to a vote on the Senate floor, aides said.

It was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously in March
but subsequently stalled in the full Senate.

Some Senate lawmakers had been pushing for a broader bill, which also
would have given consumers and telephone companies the right to sue
for damages.

But aides said they did not anticipate any objections to passing the
House version of the bill.

"I think people have gotten to the point where it's basically this
limited one or nothing," one Republican aide said. "People have
realized that we're almost at the end."

The measure also prohibits buying records from a data broker and sets
criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines. The bill
would not interfere with investigations by federal, state or local law
enforcement agencies.

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