RealTime IT News

Online Phone Data Brokers Stonewall FCC

Agency orders brokers to provide information about source of phone data they are selling over Internet.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cited Friday two online data brokers dealing in private telephone records for failing to comply with FCC subpoenas seeking documents and information.

The FCC wants to know where the brokers obtained the data since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits phone companies from using or disclosing proprietary customer information without the customer's approval.

The data the brokers are selling allegedly includes numbers dialed, calls received and the location of wireless and wireline callers.

The FCC citations name 1st Source Information Specialists and Data Find Solutions, two companies already being sued by Cingular Wireless for allegedly selling phone records. Cingular Wireless claims 1st Source currently owns and operates several Websites that advertise the sale of phone records, including LocateCell.com.

Cingular also contends that Data Find Solutions previously owned the sites in addition to currently operating Datafind.org.

The FCC issued subpoenas to the two companies in November, demanding, "call detail and other customer proprietary network information that [LocateCell and Datafind] may be obtaining from telecommunications providers."

The subpoenas required the companies to produce information and documents responding to 12 specific questions within 10 days of service of the Nov. 9 subpoenas.

According to the FCC, Data Find solutions has not responded to any of the questions while 1st Solutions only provided partial information.

If the two companies have not produced the information sought by the FCC by the end of this week, each will be subject to fines not to exceed $11,000 per day.

In addition, failure to comply could result in a federal contempt citation resulting in additional fines and possible prison terms.

The FCC launched its investigation after Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) complained about the practice in letters to both the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission.

Last week, lawmakers introduced in the U.S. Senate legislation making make it a felony offense to obtain customer information from a telephone service provider under false pretenses or to access a customer account on the Internet to obtain billing information without authorization.

Last week, three U.S. Senators introduced legislation making it a felony offense to obtain customer information from a telephone service provider under false pretenses.

The bill also makes it a crime to access customer accounts on the Internet to obtain billing information without authorization.

Phone company employees selling customer information without proper authorization would also face felony charges.

The bill applies to cell phone, landline and voice over IP .