T-Mobile: Don't legislate consumer privacy rules

A wireless company executive warns Congress against new laws that would control the way wireless companies handle their subscribers' personal information, saying they'd be out of date "as soon as the ink is dry."

ARLINGTON, Va.--A T-Mobile executive on Thursday said there's no need for Congress to pass new laws prescribing requirements governing how mobile phone carriers handle their subscribers' personal information.

Criminal penalties for scammers--such as those contained in a bill signed by President Bush earlier this year--are great, but further regulations are unnecessary and unwise, said Kathleen Ham, T-Mobile's director of federal regulatory affairs.

"I think we have every incentive to want to protect the privacy of our customers," she said during a panel discussion at the annual Pike & Fischer Broadband Summit here.

In the wake of reports that scammers--and investigators hired by Hewlett-Packard to check on boardroom media leaks--have been able to obtain phone records by pretexting, or posing as someone they aren't, both Congress and federal regulators have been pursuing new ways to crack down on the practice.

A few months ago, the Federal Communications Commission issued a list of regulations that prohibits carriers from releasing sensitive personal data without a password and requires them to notify customers immediately when changes are made to their accounts. Members of Congress have been exploring a similar move through new legislation.

Ham's resistance to such proposals tracks with what fellow wireless carriers have said in the past.

"I think the government has a hard time staying ahead of what industry is doing in terms of the best technology for encyrption, the best technology to try to protect your information," Ham said. "I think if they pass laws in this area, unfortunately, it's going to be out of date as soon as the ink is dry."

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