“It is very easy to obtain wireless phone records of another person,” said Chris Hoofnagle, director of the information privacy program at UC Berkeley’s Center for Law & Technology. “How can you tell when your (authorized) employee is looking at records in an inappropriate context? That’s the challenge that the phone companies have to deal with.”
Phone-company employees snooping for fun would be one thing, but the danger seems to go beyond that to include information being passed to outsiders, such as private investigators, he said.
Improperly viewing phone records, whether for landline or mobile phones, should fall under federal wiretapping laws, Berkeley’s Hoofnagle said. But the statutes specifically addressing phone-record privacy are complicated and aren’t always as strong for cell phones as for landlines, he said. A recent bill in the California legislature aimed to protect cellular information as tightly as landline phone bills.
“California tried to strengthen its phone records protections, and there was a very strong lobbying effort from the phone companies to prevent expansion,” Hoofnagle said.