Cell Phone Records are Not So Private

APRIL 27, 2006 -- Efforts around the country to ban the sale of your cell phone records are gaining strength. Congress as well as legislatures in at least a dozen states are looking for ways to keep private the records that many of us think are already private.

Inside the envelope is your cell phone bill, the record of your calls.  You think it is just between you and the phone company, but that's not always the case.

Scott Smithers is a private investigator in Wilmington. As he tracks down cheating spouses and run-away husbands he knows how to mine cell phone records.

"There's a lot of different ways we could actually get the information. Some of them legal and those are what we use but there are companies that will do anything they need to do to get that information," says Smithers.

You can do what Smithers does.  The companies that will sell you someone else's call list are right on the internet.

District Attorney Ben David knows the risk of easy access to cell phone records. Law enforcement agencies around the country are pushing lawmakers to prohibit access without a court order. The lives of people who help police catch drug dealers are on the line.  Authorities say the danger is they could be used by people to learn the identity of confidential informants or ongoing investigations if you don't like the idea of a stranger knowing who you call and when and from where.

Smithers says ask your cell provider to demand a password before releasing your records.  Different cell phone companies have different security measures. You should call yours and see what it is. But remember, that cell phone call is everybody's business.

You can also buy those disposable cell phones so there's no record to track. Or you can use an old fashioned phone on a line.  The call records from those are private.

Reported by Jim Hanchett