The Federal Communications Commission hopes to prevent data burglaries with a set of new regulations for phone companies aimed at preventing the fraudulent practice called "pretexting." On Monday, the FCC issued an order designed to strengthen its current privacy rules by requiring telephone and wireless operators to adopt additional safeguards to protect personal telephone records from being disclosed to unauthorized people. The new regulations come as lawmakers have already outlawed the practice of "pretexting," which encompasses any technique used to fraudulently obtain personal information. Congress is now looking to impose stricter regulations on phone companies to protect customer data.
The issue came to a head last year when investigators hired by Hewlett-Packard, in a quest to trace the source of board room media leaks, employed pretexting to nab the phone records of journalists--including three from CNET News.com--and company board members. Specifically, the FCC order prohibits carriers from releasing--either over the phone or online--sensitive personal data, such as call detail records, unless the customer provides a password. It also requires operators to notify customers immediately when changes are made to their accounts. And it requires providers to notify their customers in the event of a breach of confidentiality.