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.