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Judge Bars Company From Selling Personal Phone Records

Posted Jan 29, 2008 8:50 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal judge in Wyoming has ordered a company called AccuSearch Inc. to stop using pretexting to obtain and sell personal information from consumer phone records

U.S. District Judge William Downes also ordered the company to give back $200,000 in profits from the sales through its website, Abika.com, IDG News Service reports. The Federal Trade Commission announced the ruling (PDF) in a press release.

The Register calls the ruling a victory for privacy advocates and consumers whose personal information could be sold to stalkers and identity thieves.

Downes found that the company’s methods of getting customer information without their consent was "necessarily accomplished through illegal means." But company owner Jay Patel disputed that finding in an interview with IDG News Service. He aid the company simply provided a search engine that allowed customers to connect with “researchers.” AccuSearch is appealing the ruling.

Downes’ order barred the company from selling any consumer information unless it was lawfully obtained.

Downes told AccuSearch to turn over information about phone records sold so the FTC can notify the consumers. The agency had alleged the company used pretexting—posing as a customer—to get records, in violation of the FTC Act barring unfair business practices.

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