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February 1, 2006

Chris Hoofnagle
EPIC West Director
(415) 981-6400

Sherwin Siy
EPIC Staff Counsel
(202) 483-1140 x110

Hearings Called to Investigate Online Market in Private Personal Information

WASHINGTON, DC - The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a
hearing at 2:00 p.m. today on the sale of consumers' phone records online.
Recent reporting on the market for selling individuals' records, such as
their cell phone histories, has spurred Congressional attention to address
the problem of "pretexting," a form of fraud used to obtain the records not
just from phone companies, but other service providers as well.

"A law banning pretexting would make clear that this practice is unfair,
deceptive, illegal, and wrong," said Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director and
President of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in testimony
prepared for the hearing.

EPIC also urged the Congressional Committee to consider long-term solutions
to the problem of telephone record privacy.  "If telephone service were
billed as a utility, as it was in the past for local service and may be in
the future with VOIP service, many of the threats to privacy would simply
disappear," said Mr. Rotenberg.

Rotenberg is scheduled to testify before the Committee, along with Kevin
Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade
Commissioner Jon Leibowitz, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and
Robert Douglas, CEO of PrivacyToday.com.  Also appearing will be Steve
Largent, President of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet

Pretexting and the sale of consumer information has become a major consumer
concern over the past few weeks, as an increasing number of press accounts
showed that anyone's personal records could be at risk, including
undercover police and FBI agents, and such figures as 2004 presidential
candidate General Wesley Clark and Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer

EPIC first called the federal government's attention to the problems of
pretexting in the summer of 2005, when EPIC notified the Federal Trade
Commission that Intelligent E-Commerce, Inc. was using the tactic to obtain
and sell mobile phone records online.  EPIC subsequently urged the Federal
Communications Commission to issue rules that would require telephone
companies to establish stronger security standard.

"A ban on pretexting will be a step in the right direction," said Chris
Hoofnagle, Director of EPIC's West Coast office, who filed the complaint
with the FCC.  "But pretexting itself is only half the problem.  The other
half is that companies have such poor security and privacy procedures that
can be so easily exploited by bad actors."

The Senate will also consider the problem of pretexting next week when a
Senate Commerce subcommittee holding hearings on the matter next Wednesday,
February 8.  EPIC has again been asked to testify.

EPIC is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C.  It was
established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties
issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional

House Energy and Commerce Hearing, "Phone Records for Sale: Why Aren't
Phone Records Safe From Pretexting?":


EPIC's page on Illegal Phone Record Sales:


Senate Consumer Affairs Subcommittee Hearing: "Protecting Consumers' Phone Records":