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Federal law still needed to ensure cell number privacy

Federal Law Still Necessary to Ensure Cell Phone Number Privacy

Sprint, Alltel’s decision to drop out of registry illustrates consumers’ desire to have privacy protections for cell numbers

Friday, Jan. 14, 2005
Contact: Janee Briesemeister,
512-477-4431, ext. 117
(Washington, D.C.) – Sprint and Alltel’s decision to drop out of a proposed wireless 411 directory planned for later this year illustrates consumers’ overwhelming opposition to having their cell phone numbers listed without permission, Consumers Union said, underscoring the need for Congressional action to protect cell number privacy.
“We hope Sprint has clearly heard the concerns of their customers who don’t want to be in a 411 registry that does not legally guarantee privacy protections,” said Janee Briesemeister, Consumers Union telecom policy analyst and director of the EscapeCellHell campaign.
Sprint cited as a reason for dropping out of the registry a California law passed last fall requiring customers in that state give their written consent before being placed in a directory. But the carrier said its decision applies only to a planned 2005 directory, and that it will continue to explore a database with other carriers.
Briesemeister said it is important that Congress pass a federal law guaranteeing wireless customers’ privacy to head off future 411 directory efforts by the carriers.
“Right now, wireless companies can start a directory whenever they want, and they are not bound by any federal law to give consumers strict control over their cell phone number,” Briesemeister said. “When the industry promises to protect privacy, why is it so opposed to these laws? Perhaps because it is easier to break a promise than to break a law,” she added.
Consumers Union urges Congress to move forward on legislation consistent with the California 411 privacy law. Several other states are already considering such legislation, which would require customers first give their permission before being placed in a directory.
For more information, go to www.HearUsNow.org, free telecommunication information projects of Consumers Union.