Last week, a federal law was passed that will have the practice of
pretexting banned across the U.S. Federal legislators almost unanimously
voted for pretexting to be an illegal action, on the same level as trying to
obtain someone's financial records using false pretenses. DailyTech
recently reported that California was in the process of passing a similar state
law, but the MPAA stepped in, lobbying that it needed pretexting in order to go
after pirates. The pretexting bill SB1666 was
eventually shot down after the MPAA had its say.
Despite the small win for the MPAA in California however, the federal law
passed by Congress supersedes California's laws, making MPAA's win short lived.
Under the new law, anyone caught practicing pretexting will be fined up to
$250,000 and face possible imprisonment for 10 years. A company caught in the
act will be fined up to $500,000.
Pretexting was previously illegal in only 12 states across the U.S. Some states
had pretexting in a gray area, where consumers would try to sue if they were
victims, but there were no clear lines on what was legal and what wasn't. Now
that the law is clear, all states must abide by the same legislation. The new
law will also now govern
the outcome of those involved in the recent pretexting case against HP.
Besides consumers, phone companies will also benefit from the new law. Consumer
groups had been pushing phone companies to tighten their policies against
revealing records. Generally, service providers must adhere to very strict
privacy rules unless asked by a federal investigation. Some companies however,
gave up records when asked by general lawyers. Phone companies must now adhere
to the new law and are able to refuse record requests without trouble.