U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D.-MA) introduced legislation Thursday to allow cell phone customers to choose at no cost to not have their numbers listed in a national wireless directory. Although there is currently no such service, the wireless industry hopes to roll out directories next year similar to the landline 411 call assistance service.
The bill, known as the Wireless 411 Privacy Act, would require wireless carriers to have “clear pre-authorization” before listing an existing customer’s name and number in a directory. New customers would have to be given a “clear conspicuous mechanism” to decline to participate in any wireless directory assistance database.
The legisation further requires that no fee be charged for opting out of a national wireless directory.
“No consumer should unwittingly find themselves part of a service they don’t want,” Markey said. “Consumers should not have their current relationship with their wireless phone company turned upside down in privacy-invasive ways unless they give their permission to such a change up front.”
The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), the principal trade group of the wireless industry, agreed that consumer privacy should be “paramount” in developing wireless directory services, but contended that any legislation at this time is unnecessary since the program is still under development.
“Why now? Wireless directory assistance is still on the drawing board,” said Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA. “We are working aggressively to include strong consumer privacy protections as we continue to define a wireless directory assistance offering. The wireless industry has a long history of protecting consumers’ privacy and we look forward to working with all members of Congress as we move forward.”
Markey said that since it is unclear how wireless carriers will implement national directories, legislation is needed because “millions of customers could potentially find themselves answering the phone to receive calls from people they have not, or would not have, given their numbers or from whom they do not wish to recevie calls.”