February 1, 2006
No law to stop sale of phone records
Sophisticated pirates access cell phone records and
indiscriminately sell the contents. Is this illegal?
It lacks integrity, right?
Today, cell phone calling records are for sale on the
Internet, violating privacy. So, how did it get started?
Perhaps it began with a domestic crisis. An anxious spouse
suspected the wayward actions of a partner. Not wanting
to hire a private detective to spy, a less costly alternative
was available: the information broker. If you want to
know who someone is contacting on a cell phone, that
information can be bought for less than $200. How is
the information gathered? In the largely unregulated
world of cellular phones, the con artist, once again,
It works like this: Someone wants to know the calling
activities of a certain individual. That name is given
to an information broker. A professional liar telephones
a phone carrier, poses as the person whose information
is being sought and asks for past calling records. Slick
operators define these activities as "pre-text interviews," and
companies like Verizon and Cingular seem powerless to
stop them. Damning private information, of many kinds,
is made available to bludgeon opponents.
Identity theft is the work of these sleazy operators
who use criminal behavior to "fool" cell phone
suppliers into providing them with confidential information.
There seem to be no laws to thwart these activities -
at least, not yet. Today, cell phone records are being
compromised. Tomorrow, can we expect the same for medical
records and then bank records? This corrupt practice
reminds me of a cornerstone principle of the Bracher
Center's integrity-centered leadership counsel: It should
be common knowledge that free markets must operate with
integrity, a culture of compliance, or face increasing
government oversight. In this instance, the culprits
are getting away with inappropriate (even if not yet
illegal) actions. Such abuses must be stopped before
they permanently damage universal connectedness through
A computer consultant said: "When using the Internet,
assume that what you have written will, or at least can,
be accessed by those you would least prefer." As
one of our business clients repeated to his employees: "Never
say or do anything you would not approve being printed
on the front page of the newspaper that your mother reads."
Only integrity-centered oversight will prevent this marvelous
creation, the Internet, from enabling criminals to destroy
the people and the systems it was designed to improve.
Vigilance is the price of liberty.