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T-Mobile customers get temporary protection

Court grants temporary restraining order against companies selling T-Mobile customer information over the Internet.

At least two companies accused of selling the billing records of T-Mobile cell phone customers over the Internet have been ordered by a court in Washington state to stop their practices.

Late Monday, a Superior Court judge in King County, Wash., granted a temporary restraining order against Data Find Solutions, 1st Source Information Specialists and related companies and individuals to force them to stop obtaining and selling T-Mobile customer information. T-Mobile, which is owned by Deutsche Telekom and is the No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier, filed a lawsuit against these companies and their owners Monday.

T-Mobile said Data Find Solutions and 1st Source Information Specialists ran or owned Web sites such as Locatecell.com and Celltolls.com, which have been selling phone records and billing information of T-Mobile customers.

Attempts to locate a representative of Data Find or 1st Source were unsuccessful.

The temporary restraining order granted by the court prohibits the companies from directly or indirectly obtaining information about T-Mobile's customers. It also prohibits them from selling any such information they've already obtained. And it prohibits them from advertising that they have or can obtain information about T-Mobile customers.

A hearing on the preliminary injunction is scheduled for Feb. 24. A T-Mobile representative confirmed that T-Mobile plans to file additional complaints against other companies that sell cell phone records on the Internet.

The recent lawsuits filed by T-Mobile and other cell phone carriers such as Verizon Wireless and Cingular Wireless, have prompted U.S. lawmakers, state attorneys general and the Federal Communications Commission to look more closely at the collection of consumer data.

Lawmakers in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have proposed new legislation to criminalize the activity of obtaining customer information falsely.

On Tuesday, the state attorney general's office in Florida filed suit against 1st Source. It has accused the company of providing customers with confidential telephone calling records of unsuspecting consumers. Last week, the Illinois attorney general sued 1st Source, accusing the company of using illegal means to access and sell telephone records. The FCC last week issued a citation against 1st Source for failing to comply fully with a subpoena and threatened to fine the company.