RealTime IT News

Sprint Sues to Stop Online Phone Data

By Ed Sutherland

Sprint Nextel today asked a Florida court to grant an injunction stopping a company's "egregious disregard for privacy."

Sprint Nextel alleged that 1st Source Information Specialist, the parent of several Web sites offering detailed cell phone data, committed fraud by posing as Sprint Nextel customers to gain records.

Sprint is only the latest to sue 1st Source to stop Web sites, including www.locatecell.com, www.celltoys.com,www.datafind.org and www.peoplesearchamerica.com, from selling cell phone calling records."

"Protection of confidential customer information is our number one priority and we are taking aggressive action to ensure that any threat to privacy is eliminated immediately," according to a statement from Kent Nakamura, vice president for telecom management and chief privacy officer for Sprint Nextel.

"We can assure our customers that we will make every effort to put these services out of business," Nakamura said.

Sprint Nextel called today's lawsuit a "proactive measure" supporting an industry-wide call to stop release of subscriber calling data.

"We've seen limited instances of this in our customers," said Jennifer Walsh, a Sprint Nextel spokesperson when asked how hard the carrier had been hit by the alleged fraud.

Sprint Nextel also said its customer service agents now follow detailed steps for authenticating callers seeking access to personal information.

Sprint Nextel suggested customers should regularly change account passwords and select unique passwords for the voicemail service.

Earlier this week, Florida Attorney General Charles Crist filed a similar injunction asking for a temporary and permanent injunction against the Ft. Lauderdale corporation. The lawsuit also called for 1st Source Information Specialists return any phone records they possess.

"This is beyond an outrage and a gross invasion of privacy," said Crist. "Citizens have a right to expect that their private, personal telephone records will not be used as a cash cow for a third party."

The Florida Public Service Commission discovered they were able to get cell phone calling records from the Web sites involved without providing any information beyond telephone number.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has also filed a lawsuit against 1st Source Information Specialists, asking the company be civilly fined $50,000 per violation of the state's Business Practices Act.

There is precedent for these measures elsewhere.

Cingular Wireless earlier this month obtained an injunction preventing Web sites from selling subscribers' calling records.

T-Mobile, the nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier, on Wednesday was granted a temporary injunction by a Washington State Superior Court, stopping 1st Source Information Specialists, Data Find Solutions and other data brokers selling subscriber records.

Sprint Nextel also said it supports federal legislation that would increase civil and criminal penalties against companies fraudulently obtaining or selling subscriber cell phone records.

Currently, companies selling cell phone records cannot be prosecuted, according to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), one of the sponsors of the just-introduced Consumer Telephone Records Protection Act of 2006.