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T-Mobile Sues Cell Phone Record Diggers

Wireless provider T-Mobile on Monday sued the owners of several Web sites that have built a business around selling anyone's wireless phone records. The move comes just days after Congressional lawmakers introduced several bills to explicitly make the practice a federal crime.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court in T-Mobile's back yard of Bellevue, Wash., targets 1st Source Information Specialists Inc. and Data Find Solutions, which according to the complaint operated, and, either separately or jointly. (On a side note, it looks like and may already have gotten the same treatment from Cingular Wireless. The companies' sites say: "Queries regarding any information pertaining to Cingular Wireless numbers will not be accepted or processed at this time.")

The lawsuit also names as many as 100 John Does -- individuals whom the company believes may have helped the above-named companies obtain cell phone records from the company by "impersonating T-Mobile employees, supervisors, and disabled or injured customers. ... through deceit, trickery and dishonesty."

By using the John Doe tactic -- popularized by the Recording Industry Association of America in their ongoing legal war with individual peer-to-peer (P2P) music swappers -- T-Mobile hopes to convince a judge to force the companies to turn over the names of the people who allegedly did the deceiving and tricking.

A copy of the complaint is here: Download tmob.pdf

By Brian Krebs  |  January 25, 2006; 9:52 AM ET
Categories:  Fraud  
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Next: ChoicePoint to Pay $15M for Privacy Violations


I wonder if T-mobile Prepaid offers more privacy than their contract phones. At the time of purchase they (company store) recorded my name and DOB, but since there is no monthly customer bill, specific call data would be harder for outsiders to come by.

Posted by: John Johnsom | January 25, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

JJ, they collect the information about the phone of which calls and how long, you just never get a copy. But the database exists.

Posted by: Dave H | January 25, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

The data being sold here is internal to the cell phone companies. If these companies had better internal controls, this problem would not exist.

It's really sad that they'd rather sue people who take advantage of their incompetence, instead of fixing the actual problem within themselves.

Posted by: Jim Z | January 25, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

As currently discussed this issue is too narrowly focused and would not address the greater issue of many companies that continue to buy/sell/share customer information. To explaing further, CNBC was running a series on how your private cell phone data could be bought. In response to a statement made by a guest, the CNBC host clarified that the issue was the purchasing of cell phone data by PRIVATE people, but the selling/buying/sharing of cell phone data held by the cell phone provider itself for marketing purposes would be OK. Clearly a double standard.

I took a quick look at the T-Mobile privacy notice, and it appears OK from the privacy perspective.

Any legal initiative, such as that proposed by Joe Barton (R-Tex.) as reported in the Post on 1/19/2006 must include a prohibition on any company buying/selling/sharing customer data. Let me also throw in the issue that we should not have to OPT-OUT. If we want mailings than we can opt-in.

Posted by: Steve R., | January 25, 2006 6:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised to read the above comment that when buying a prepaid card a customer must provide his name and DOB. I live in Thailand where there has been considerable controversy about a now-on-hold plan by the government to require registration of cellular phones, but it has never been the case I have to provide *any* information when buying a prepaid card. I didn't mind registering my phone, since the process is very simple, but I think I would resist any effort to require me to provide personal data just to use a phone. What next? -- show one's ID to use a pay phone???

Posted by: Mekhong Kurt | January 25, 2006 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps I am too vociferous on this issue, but I *really* don't like companies sharing private information. I know, I know -- many of them tell you in their TOS they may share information with others, but I feel they should not be allowed to do so. If they wish to e-mail me with opportunities to receive third-party information, I have no problem with that, since it involves opting in (as an earlier poster argued). I hate having to opt out, especially since it so often results in just all that much more spam e-mail arriving. On my worst day ever, in less than 24 hours I got a rather stunning 6,414 e-mails, only about 40 of which were legitimate. Took me HOURS to delete them all, since I had to check each and every one of them.

Sigh. The *@#$%^& will always figure out a way to plague us, won't they? I'll pop a cork the day someone such as Microsoft figures out a way to blow up the spammers computers in their faces.

Posted by: Mekhong Kurt | January 29, 2006 7:20 AM | Report abuse

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