News Corp. Fallout: Rep. Bono Mack Seeks Privacy Info From NCTA, Others

Says its crucial to ask U.S. companies if they are satisified with current safeguards

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association is among a handful of trade associations that has been asked for info on industry privacy safeguards in the wake of the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal.

In a July 18 letter to the heads of NCTA, USTelecom, CTIA, the Consumer Electronics Association, and ITI, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, said that given the "headlines about the rapidly spreading phone hacking and police bribery scandal in the United Kingdom," she said it was crucial to ask U.S. companies in all parts of the communications chain  "whether they are satisfied that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent similar privacy breaches here in the United States."

She asked for answers by Aug. 2 to the following questions:

"1. As communications through voice over internet protocol (VOIP), smart phones and other mobile devices become more integrated in our daily lives, do you expect to see a rise in phone hacking here in the United States (involving both personal conversations and voicemails) as criminals search for new ways to steal valuable information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers and Social Security numbers?

2. At present, what safeguards do your member companies employ to ensure that American consumers are adequately protected against the type of phone hacking scandal currently being investigated in the United Kingdom?

3. In the wake of this scandal, do your member companies believe it is necessary to adopt new practices to ensure that consumers in the United States are better protected in the future?

4. Do you believe existing laws and regulations adequately protect consumers in the United States from phone hacking and similar privacy breaches? 

5. Approximately how many phone hacking incidents are reported by your member companies in a year?  Are the number of incidents growing or declining?  

6. As a matter of practice, are phone hacking incidents, or suspected incidents, reported to law enforcement agencies and regulatory agencies? 

7. From a technological standpoint, how difficult is it to hack into cell phones or other mobile devices?

8. What steps can consumers take on their own to better protect their personally identifiable information when communicating through either fixed wire or wireless devices?"