Selected Laws Governing the Disclosure of Customer Phone Records by Telecommunications Carriers   [open pdf - 105KB]

"Telephone records contain a large amount of intimate personal information. Recent years have seen a rise in the use of this information for marketing and even for criminal purposes. The purchase and sale of telephone record information, therefore, became a booming business. Websites and data brokers claiming to be able to obtain the phone records for any phone number within a few days abounded. However, the methods by which these data brokers obtained their information came under intense fire from public interest groups concerned about consumer privacy. Consumer groups and news outlets reported that telephone records were being obtained fraudulently by data brokers or other individuals without the knowledge or consent of the customers to whom the records related. […] This report discusses recent legislative and regulatory efforts to protect the privacy of customer telephone records and efforts to prevent the unauthorized use, disclosure, or sale of such records by data brokers. In addition, it provides a brief overview of the confidentiality protections for customer information established by the Communications Act of 1934. It does not discuss the legal framework for the disclosure by telephone companies of phone records to the government. For an overview of laws that address disclosure of telephone records to the government, see CRS Report RL33424, Government Access to Phone Calling Activity and Related Records, by Elizabeth B. Bazan, Gina Marie Stevens, and Brian Yeh. For an overview of federal law governing wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping, see CRS Report 98-326, Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping, by Gina Marie Stevens and Charles Doyle. This report will be updated when warranted."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34409
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