SPRINGFIELD – Responding to alarming reports about sensitive personal and corporate information being easily retrieved from discarded cell phones, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today sent a letter to two federal regulatory bodies, urging them to require cell phone companies to develop effective ways to completely delete a customer’s information.
“Recent reports now indicate that when a cell phone’s memory is erased, sensitive information that is supposed to have been deleted can be easily restored,” wrote the Governor in a letter to the chairperson of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Deborah Platt Majoras, and the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Kevin J. Martin. “Current federal laws require cell phone companies to protect their customer’s personal information, but clearly there’s a gap. I urge both of your agencies to require cell phone companies to develop more effective methods to completely delete a customer’s information.”
Recent media reports about the ease in which sensitive information that was supposed to have been deleted from discarded or reset cell phones, was retrieved using inexpensive software that is found on the Internet, have raised alarm about confidential information falling in the wrong hands or being used for unlawful purposes.
According to one of those reports software experts who bought 10 discarded phones on ebay were able to easily retrieve, among other things:
A company’s plan to win a multimillion-dollar federal transportation contract;
Emails about another company’s payments for a software license; detailed information about a man’s prescription drugs and utility payments. Bank accounts number and passwords from several individuals.
The media reports indicated that instructions provided by manufacturers to delete a customer’s information are often hard to use or even find, whereas the tools to retrieve supposedly deleted information are easy to use and find for hackers and identity thieves.
Gov. Blagojevich has taken aggressive steps to protect private information from identity theft, including enacting legislation recently that made Illinois one of the first states in the nation to outlaw “pretexting,” an unlawful practice that allows an individual pretending to be an account holder to obtain cell phone records, long distance call records and other personal records.