It may soon become a federal crime to obtain a person’s telephone records. The Senate made that possible Friday night when they approved legislation similar to a bill passed by the House.
The Senate bill increases the proposed fine to $500,000 and includes imprisonment up to 10 years in cases involving domestic abuse. The penalties can even be greater if classified as a special circumstance. The bill also details penalties and prison time for anyone who buys or sells the deceptively acquired phone records. The caveat is that those involved must know the records were obtained deceptively.
This legislation specifically addresses the act of ‘pretexting’ to obtain a person’s telephone records without permission.
“My main concern is that it is still not clear how the term ‘telephone records’ will be defined. Will this term mean toll records, name and address, or any other information maintained by the phone company?” Jimmie Mesis, PI Magazine Editor-in-Chief
This definition will certainly become much clearer before it heads to the Oval Office for the President’s signature.
As expected, there is an exemption for law enforcement. However, there is also an exemption for private detectives, but only if they are hired to acquire the confidential records by law enforcement.
More information on this topic will be featured in the upcoming issue of PI Magazine You can find more details on this bill by clicking here.
Thank Mike,and furthermore;I hope I don’t affend anyone, because I am not trying. But, Associations such as the NCISS, who are advocates for Private Investigators on the hill,well so far I have found they are not having much of an effect, for instance the SSN number. We are no longer able to receive SSN on our search engines as before. Agian, we get checked out before they issue a a username/password. Records that are suppose to be public law enforcement says it is not, or try to get a court order (subpoena) to get them, that’s a laugh. Maybe the old buddy system, your an ex-cop they will give them up. I do alot of work for the Washington Innocent project, and trying to get records, well forget it. I am a member of various organizations, but sometimes I really wonder why. It seems that their hands to are tied.
I agree, Steven. Where does it end? America was founded on freedom and that freedom is slipping away all too fast for all Americans. We must all do something to set ourselves as PI’s up a little higher in the professional food chain. We all need to recognize that there are bad politicians, bad cops, bad used car salesmen and bad PI’s. We need to understand that there will always be bad people. Instead of taking away every last right we have, why not spend our time on the education of our fellow Americans. There is little focus there. Is it intentional? Hmmm. Keep ’em dumb, keep ’em in line. Perhaps there needs to be a standard on the national level that one must meet to be in the investigative field weeding out bad PI’s. I don’t know.
Well I am just a small time investigator here in Idaho, but one thing that is really getting me is the Government is constantly regulating investigators on a daily basis. Where will it end? I do understand that there are bad investigators who cause some of the problems we are having, but I served twenty-two years in the military, and our regulations is getting pretty bad. It seems that PI’s are bad unless law enforcement has a use for us then we are good folks. I have discussed this with a local D.A. and he even agrees that we are going to be regulated out of business all together. Then our rights to make a living are shot the hell. This business as an investigator is getting harder and harder and even more regulated. We have to meet certain criteria before we can receive our licenses, and when we do it’s really just another yearly payment for what? PI Magazine put an article in stating how law enforcement and the private investigation sector are working hand and hand, horse pucky! Maybe on the east coast but on the west coast I don’t think so, maybe if you are ex-law enforcement. Washington State is one of the worst States to work with. What is public records they say they don’t have to give out anything they feel is not to their standards public records, which to them is just about everything. Idaho is still pretty much American, and will provide you with just about anything that is necessary to help you with your case. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying all States are like Washington, but even legislation is going to the point where our freedom of investigators in going right down the tubes. Regulation is good as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.
Your right, no pretexting of a telephone company…period! It doesn’t matter who your client is, that is of course unless your client is a law enforcement agancy and you can prove it.
H.R. 4709, the Telephone Records and Privacy Act of 2006, passed by Congress, is awaiting the President’s signature. Once enacted this legislation will invoke criminal penalties for anyone (except law enforcement) who “knowingly and intentionally sells or transfers, or attempts to sell or transfer, confidential phone records information of a covered entity, without prior authorization from the customer to whom such confidential phone records information relates, or knowing or having reason to know such information was obtained fraudulently, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
There are no exceptions, such as investigation of an abusive spouse, which are permissible reasons to obtain telephone call pattern records. This bill’s coverage only applies to telephone toll records, not to securing subscriber telephone data such as subscriber name, address or telephone number.
The legislation amends United States Code, Title 18, Chapter 47, adding, “Sec. 1039. Fraud and related activity in connection with obtaining confidential phone records on a covered entity.”
Does this mean that I can’t pretext to get the phone calls of a spouse in a domestic dispute?
David Keith, Private Investigator