|Under this practice, the data broker contacts the telephone company and seeks a subscriber’s phone records by pretending to be the subscriber. By having a few details (phone number, Social Security number, date of birth), data brokers can collect this information with an alarmingly high rate of success.
Phone records provide a “telecommunications fingerprint” that can point to accomplices, undo alibis and even, in the case of mobile service, provide information about a suspect’s location at a given time. It also can come in handy in a divorce trial, and this use, along with many others, is the source of the recent spate of legislative action.Of course, no industry can survive without customers. And for data brokers who deal in telephone records, these customers need to be of the “no questions asked” variety.
According to experts in the field, the vast majority of telephone records are purchased by attorneys, private investigators, skip tracers, debt collectors and the news media. One of the more dramatic uses for such information is to prove infidelity in a divorce case, but phone records are used mainly to track people for debt collection and pursuant to a private investigation.
Section 222 of Title 47 of the U.S. Code puts the responsibility for maintaining the confidentiality of telephone records squarely on the telephone carriers. The new laws, however, create criminal and civil penalties for individuals who fraudulently gain access to the records.
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