Privacy Groups to FCC: Keep Gov’t Out of Phone Records

Insisting that removing identification from phone data isn't enough, privacy organizations called on the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday to stop the government from raiding phone records.

The petition for a declaratory ruling that would enforce provisions of the 1996 Telecommunications Act was filed in Washington by a coalition of non-profit organizations and activists.

'Ask Customers' Permission'

Alarmed at a report in the New York Times that wireless giant AT&T is selling call logs to the CIA, the groups want the FCC to require that carriers, with limited exceptions, must have customersEU permission before they can share EUcustomer proprietary network information,EU or EUCPNI," as specified in section 222 of the Telecommunications Act.

The groups are the Benton Foundation, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Media Justice, UC-Berkeley Law Professor Chris Jay Hoofnagle, Common Cause, Consumer Action, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Free Press, New America FoundationEUs Open Technology Institute, and U.S. Public Interest Research Groups.

"The primary effect of Section 222 is to severely restrict what phone carriers can do with their customersEU private information," according to the petition. "Under Section 222, a carrier may not use, disclose, or permit access to a customerEUs individually identifiable CPNI without that customerEUs consent except to provide service or comply with the law."

The petition argues that EUanonymizedEU or EUde-identifiedEU call records "still constitute individually identifiable CPNI under Section 222."

The Nov. 7 New York Times report, citing unnamed government officials, said the CIA was paying AT&T more than $10 million for assistance in overseas counterterrorism investigation with information about customers' international calls.

But Laura Moy, staff attorney for Public Knowledge, wrote on her organization's policy blog that AT&T isn't the only focus of concern.

"When we did a little more poking around, we found that all four major mobile carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon) have privacy policies that...

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