• Online
    • Phishing
    • Spyware
    • Cyber-Crime
  • Privacy
    • Identity Theft
    • Financial Privacy
    • Public Records
    • Student PII
    • Selling of Telephone Records
  • Telephone
    • Caller ID
    • Push Polls/Political Telemarketing
  • Sales
    • Do Not Call/Telephone Solicitation
    • Junk Faxes
  • Taxes

Current Legislation

Congress – The Safeguarding America's Families by Enhancing and Reorganizing New and Efficient Technologies Act (or SAFER NET Act) (H.R. 1008) would establish an Office of Internet Safety and Public Awareness within the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which would increase public awareness and education regarding Internet safety. H.R. 1008 would have no discernable negative impact on the research profession.

Congress – The Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today’s Youth (SAFETY) Act (H.R. 837) would provide criminal penalties for the facilitation of child pornography or the sexual exploitation of children online. It would also require warning marks on commercial websites with sexually explicit content. H.R. 837 would have minimal impact on the profession and is not likely to be acted upon.

IL has passed S.B. 137, a new law which prohibits persons from using false misrepresentations, via the Internet or e-mail, to induce others to provide identifying information. S.B. 137 has no negative implications for the survey research profession.

IL has also passed S.B. 142, a new law that prohibits computer tampering, defined as obtaining data without authorization, inserting programs to damage computers and falsifying electronic mail transmission and routing information. All of these actions are deceptive in nature, so this new law should not impact the legitimate business practices of the survey research profession.

Identity Theft
Congress has introduced a plethora of bills regarding social security numbers.

Congress – The Act (H.R. 2455) would prohibit the sale or purchase of social security numbers. This legislation is similar to H.R. 948 (profiled in last month’s Legislative Update), but contains a much more restrictive exemption for research purposes: “to the extent necessary for research (other than market research) conducted by an agency or instrumentality of the” U.S., a State, or locality, “for the purpose of advancing the public good, on the condition that the researcher provides adequate assurances that … numbers will not be used to harass, target, or publicly reveal information concerning any identifiable individuals… information about identifiable individuals obtained from the research will not be used to make decisions that directly affect the rights, benefits, or privileges of specific individuals” and provided that “the researcher has in place appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy and confidentiality of any information about identifiable individuals, including procedures to ensure that the social security account numbers will be encrypted or otherwise appropriately secured from unauthorized disclosure.”

Congress – The House Ways & Means Committee passed the Social Security Number Privacy and Identity Theft Prevention Act (H.R. 3046) on June 18, which would prohibit most sales and purchases of Social Security Numbers (SSNs), or their display to the general public, including via websites, unencrypted email, and identification cards and tags, by government agencies, individuals, or private entities. H.R. 3046 also would require the Social Security Administration to propose standards for truncating SSNs and study the feasibility of banning SSNs as an authenticator. It includes exceptions for legitimate and necessary uses of the number such as for tax returns and national security uses, as well as an exception for research purposes identical to H.R. 2455 (mentioned above). H.R. 3046 provides penalties of up to five years in prison or a $250,000 fine, but allows for the use of at least 4 digits of SSNs for identification purposes for the next 4 years. The Committee passed a similar bill in the 109th Congress, but failed to find a compromise version that could please the whole House. A similar stalemate appears to be developing this year.

Congress – The Social Security Number Fraud and Identity Theft Prevention Act (S. 699) aims to prevent the fraudulent use of social security account numbers by allowing the sharing of social security data among federal agencies for identity theft prevention and immigration enforcement purposes. This legislation would have no apparent impact on the research profession.

Congress – The Social Security Account Number Protection Act (S. 1208) prohibits the unnecessary solicitation of five digits or more from Social Security numbers (SSNs), unless there is a specific use for the numbers for which no other identifier could reasonably be used (such as authenticating an individual’s identification). S. 1208 would also prohibit prison laborers from accessing or handling Social Security numbers. Finally, this Act would prohibit the non-consensual sale, purchase, or display of SSNs to the general public, with similar exemptions, including to the extent the transmission is incidental to the franchising or merger of a business. It also contains an explicit exemption for research: “to the extent necessary for research (other than market research) conducted by an agency or instrumentality of the United States or of a State or political subdivision thereof (or an agent of such an agency or instrumentality) for the purpose of advancing the public good”. This legislation is not likely to advance on its own, but might be incorporated into other data security bills in the Senate.

Congress – The Social Security Account Number Misuse Prevention Act (S. 238) prohibits the display, sale or purchase of Social Security numbers (SSNs)without the affirmatively expressed consent of the individual.” Exceptions are made in S. 238 for regularly required business uses, and for any purposes allowed by the Gramm Leach Bliley Act. And the Fair Credit Reporting Act. S. 238 would also apply this prohibition to government posting of public records, requiring their redaction or deletion. Similar to S. 1208, this Act would prohibit the access of prison laborers to SSNs. It would also strictly limit the requirement for personal disclosure of SSNs in consumer transactions. Unlike S. 1208, S. 238 contains no exemptions for research purposes. But like S. 1208, S. 238 is not likely to advance on its own, though it might be incorporated into other data security bills in the Senate.

Congress – The Social Security Number Online Protection Act (S. 1691) would prohibit the “display to the general public on the Internet of all or any portion of any social security account number” by any State or local government. Noncompliance would be subject to a civil penalty imposed by the Attorney General of not more than $5,000 a day for each day. S. 1691 would also provide $10 million for the next two years for grants to States and localities to carry out removal or redaction of noncompliant forms and records.

Children’s PII
Congress – The Protecting Children in the 21 st Century Act (S. 49) would, among other purposes, make it unlawful “to sell personal information about an individual the seller knows to be a child” without express consent from the child’s parent. In the context of marketing, it would prohibit the purchase of “personal information about an individual identified by the seller as a child,” or to sell such information in violation of the required certification in the bill that such personal information will not be used for marketing purposes. Researchers should note that S. 49 defines “child” as anyone under 16 years of age, and “personal information” as identifiable information about an individual, including a name, home or other physical address including street name and name of a city or town, an email address, online username, telephone number, Social Security number. The sponsor of this legislation has publicly acknowledged that the bill is problematic and will be redrafting it.

Caller ID
Congress – S. 1654 would prohibit the transmission of “false caller ID information with intent wrongfully to obtain anything of value” and restrict the sale or provision of caller ID spoofing services, unless such service “transmits, in the signaling data with each call, (1) information sufficient to indicate to the recipient's telephone carrier that the caller ID information is not accurate, (2) if available, the originating telephone number or other information identifying the origin of the call, and (3) the identity of the provider of the service that enabled the user to modify, generate, or transmit the chosen caller ID information.” CMOR supports this bill for its language specifically targeting illicit activities – language much more carefully crafted than other bills on Caller ID currently under consideration. Unfortunately, it is not clear that S. 1654 will be acted upon.

Congress – The Senate Commerce Committee passed the Truth in Caller ID Act (S. 704) on June 27, which would make it illegal “to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information”. This bill is similar to H.R. 251, which passed the House on June 12. CMOR will be working with the Committee to ensure that the interests of the profession in the use of caller ID are protected.

IL has passed S.B. 380 into law, which prohibits using any internet caller identification or phone equipment in order to falsify a residential or business phone number or prevent it from appearing on the caller identification system of a recipient. The law specifically requires the intent to falsify and forge telephone number information that is deceptive in nature. Telephone researchers in Illinois should not be implicated under this new law.

Automatic Dialing Announcing Devices (ADAD)
PA has adopted State Resolution 153, which prohibits state Senators from using public funds to pay or reimburse the costs for automatic dialing announcing devices. This resolution (which is a non-enforceable statement of policy, belief or appreciation) is a matter internal to the state Senate, designed to keep tax dollars from paying for constituent relations efforts like notices about townhall or telephone conferences which could be construed as campaign activity. This resolution does not impact the use of ADADs by the survey research profession at this time, but might spawn legislative action targeting the more general uses of ADADs in the future. CMOR will discuss this issue further in an upcoming newsletter and will be monitoring for any new policies that may arise regarding this issue.

Selling of Telephone Records
Congress – The Prevention of Fraudulent Access to Phone Records Act (H.R. 936) would expand penalties and possible legal recourse for the crime of "pretexting" -- using false identities to obtain private telephone records (customer proprietary network information, or CPNI). Like the federal pretexting law passed last year (Public Law 109-476), this Act would have little direct impact on the survey research profession, but it is important for the profession to keep apprised of the pretexting issue.

Pharmaceutical Marketing
VT has passed S.B. 115, a new lawthat restricts “data mining” operations that gather information on what prescription drugs doctors dispense, which is then used by pharmaceutical makers for marketing purposes. Physicians, however, can opt-in to data mining practices if they choose. Though Vermont has not defined “data mining”, information that is obtained by or for survey researchers may qualify as a data mining operation under this law if it is utilized specifically for marketing purposes. S.B. 115 also fails to define “marketing”, though survey research will likely be outside the scope. Although this law is not targeted at survey and opinion researchers, the profession should be mindful to maintain legitimate survey research practices and avoid possible connotations of marketing (since marketing ties into advertising and solicitation).

Market Research Funding
Congress – The Travel Promotion Act (S. 1661) would create an independent body to manage and coordinate a nationwide travel promotions campaign, establish an Under Secretary of Commerce for Travel Promotion, and seek to encourage international travelers to visit the United States. S. 1661 would also expand funding for travel research in connection with the promotion of international travel to the U.S., including “expanding access to the official Mexican travel surveys data to provide the States with traveler characteristics and visitation estimates for targeted marketing programs” and “revising the Commerce Department's Survey of International Travelers questionnaire and report formats to accommodate a new survey instrument, expanding the respondent base, improving response rates, and improving market coverage.” Since this legislation would is primarily for the purposes of travel promotion, rather than research, CMOR will not get involved. CMOR’s Government Affairs Committee decided in July that CMOR should not be advocating for money for specific sectors of research.

Communications Taxes
Congress – The Telephone Excise Tax Repeal Act (H.R. 1194) would repeal the federal excise tax on local telephone service.

Phone Tax
MI is considering passing H.B. 4852, which would impose a public safety surcharge of $1.35 to service users on all phone bills to fund law enforcement programs. This charge would apply to all communication services that are capable of connecting or accessing a 911 system by a local telephone device or cellular telephone service. The legislation defines a service user as “a person receiving communication service”. Therefore, it appears that this law applies to consumer and businesses that rely on telephone services in the state of Michigan. Survey researchers will therefore be subject to the monthly charge. This legislation is currently in committee pending an expected contentious debate.