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September 29, 2006

For More Information, Contact:
Paige Schoknecht (650) 688-6384
Hema Sareen Mohan (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today that he has signed SB 202, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), which protects consumers’ phone records from being unknowingly obtained by others. 

SB 202 protects consumers in two ways.  First, it makes it illegal to obtain a consumer’s phone records by fraud or deceit, including the practice known as “pretexting” (i.e., pretending to be someone you’re not).  Second, the bill makes it illegal to buy or sell a consumer’s phone records without the consumer’s written consent, effectively shutting down the market for phone records.  A first violation of the law would result in a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in county jail; and a subsequent violation would result in a fine of up to $10,000 and up to a year in county jail. 

“If we make it illegal to obtain the phone records in the first place and then make it illegal to buy or sell such information, that should take care of the problem.  Right now, anyone who wants to can purchase your phone records for as little as $100,” said Simitian.  “It’s an unconscionable invasion of privacy.  Your phone records are like a road map to your personal life.  You can obtain someone’s phone records and find out how often and when they’ve been calling their doctor, a potential employer, a political organization, or a new boyfriend.” 

When Simitian introduced SB 202 in August 2005 there was a thriving market in phone records, online and off, but the issue generated little public awareness.  Subsequently, high-profile cases in the political and business arenas brought greater public scrutiny to this surprisingly widespread invasion of privacy. 

To demonstrate the ease of selling or purchasing a consumer’s phone records, in January 2006 AMERICAblog purchased former presidential candidate General Wesley Clark’s records from the website for $89.95.  Those records included nearly 100 of Gen. Clark’s phones calls over several days in November 2005. 

The controversy around allegations of pretexting at Hewlett-Packard Corporation, which surfaced earlier this month, is the second high-profile event raiding the public’s awareness of the issue.

But Simitian says that potential abuses in the business and political arenas weren’t what prompted his legislation.  “Frankly, I’m concerned about the loss of privacy for the general public.  The fact that there have been scores of websites offering this ‘service’ at low cost, online, indicates there’s been a big market for this kind of information.”

Pending federal legislation would make it illegal to “pretext,” but Simitian introduced his legislation because, “Frankly, Congress’ record on consumer privacy issues doesn’t make me particularly optimistic about meaningful federal protection anytime soon.  If California can help prod the federal government into action, so much the better,” said Simitian. 

“SB 202 gives individuals much needed tools to protect their phone records,” said Chris Hoofnagle, Senior Staff Attorney with the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley.  “The legislation will serve as a model for other states and for Congress.” 

SB 202 is supported by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the California Attorney General, and the California State Sheriffs Association, as well as Verizon, T-Mobile USA, AT&T, and Sprint Nextel.

SB 202 takes effect on January 1, 2007.  To learn more about SB 202, visit