The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed federal court complaints against five Web-based operations accused of selling consumers’ confidential telephone records, the agency announced Wednesday.
The FTC is asking U.S. courts in five states to order the defendants to permanently halt the illegal sale of phone records. The FTC also wants courts to order the operations to give up the money they’ve made by selling the records.
“Trafficking in consumers’ confidential telephone records is outrageous,” Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “It robs consumers of their privacy and exposes them to everything from snoops to stalkers. We intend to put a stop to it.”
The defendants in these cases are: 77 Investigations Inc. and Reginald Kimbro, based in Upland, California; AccuSearch Inc., doing business as Abika.com, and Jay Patel, based in Cheyenne, Wyoming; CEO Group Inc., doing business as Check Em Out, and Scott Joseph, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Information Search Inc., and David Kacala, based in Baltimore, Maryland; and Integrity Security & Investigation Services Inc., Edmund L. Edmister, Tracey Edmister, and F. Lynn Moseley, based in Yorktown, Virginia.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 says customers’ phone records are their private property and can only be disclosed to the customer or with the approval of the customer, the FTC said.
The defendants advertised on their Web sites that they could obtain the confidential phone records of any individual, including lists of outgoing and incoming calls, and make that information available for a fee, the FTC said.
Congress and the FTC have focused on the sale of phone records after complaints last year from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. In January, Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he had asked the FTC and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate Web sites that offer to sell mobile phone records, including information about incoming and outgoing calls, for as little as US$89.95.