Verizon Wins Fight with Data Collectors

 
 
By Matt Hines  |  Posted 2006-01-31 Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The carrier has won another injunction against companies that offered to sell personal account information that they had gathered about specific Verizon Wireless customers.

A federal court in New Jersey granted an injunction to Verizon Wireless in the companys latest case against third parties charged with obtaining and selling information about the carriers customers.

Verizon officials said that a federal judge in Trenton, New Jersey issued a preliminary injunction against the current and former owners of an online company known as LocateCell.com and several related firms charged with marketing services that offered to provide personal information about the operators wireless account holders.
Such services are believed to be frequented by people including private investigators, but Verizon has argued in several cases that the services often misrepresent themselves to the company to get customers data.

The injunction bans Locatecell.com and the other sites from further attempts to obtain information on Verizon customers, provide any information on customers to third parties, advertise the ability to obtain information on the carriers customers or operate any Web site that tries to gather information on Verizons wireless users. Click here to read about how data privacy is getting caught in the crossfire. The ruling also bans the included defendants from contacting Verizon for any reason whatsoever.

In this lawsuit, filed last week, Verizon charged that the defendants businesses fraudulently attempted to obtain customer records by calling its customer service centers posing as employees who needed access to confidential customer information.

In addition to Locatecell.com, the suit was levied against a firm identified as Data Find Solutions, and one of the companys principals, James Kester, as well as a company known as First Source Information Specialists, and its owners Steven Schwartz and Kenneth W. Gorman. Other sites named in the injunction, and run by those companies, include Celltolls.com, Datafind.org and Peoplesearchamerica.com.

Under the ruling, the companies in question must also provide the court with all the data they have related to Verizon Wireless customers within the next 10 business days.

"This ruling puts an end to these defendants attempts to steal our customers private information," Michael Holden, attorney for Verizon Wireless, said in a statement. "We built a strong case and achieved a swift and sure remedy to protect our customers information. This is an important victory for not just Verizon Wireless customers, but for customers of all wireless companies."

In Sept. of 2005, the New Jersey courts ordered a separate company charged with tricking Verizon Wireless workers into divulging sensitive customer information to halt its practice of acquiring and selling such data.

Verizon had similarly accused that firm, Source Resources, of duping its customer service representatives into supplying much of the data in question.

To read about Microsoft turning over search data to the government, click here. Verizon claimed in its suit that Source Resources used personal information obtained from other sources to pose as individual customers and trick Verizons service representatives into revealing additional data, including phone numbers and calling records. That information was in turn sold off to private investigators, Verizon said.

Chris Hoofnagle, a director at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said that the Verizon cases help illustrate an increased need for better safeguards protecting consumer information, particularly against data aggregators and private investigators. In late August, EPIC petitioned the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to improve security for calling records. In the request, EPIC identified some 40 Web sites that openly offer to obtain calling records without an account holders consent.

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