Bono Mack Questions Telecom Groups In Wake of U.K. News Corp. Scandal

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Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), a key member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent letters July 18 to groups that represent providers of telecommunications services and devices, seeking details on what steps their members are taking to protect U.S. consumers from “phone hacking.”

The inquiry comes in the wake of reports that staffers of a now-defunct News Corp. tabloid in the United Kingdom illegally accessed the voicemail messages of thousands of people, including politicians and members of the British royal family.

“Understanding that the events in the United Kingdom have not been connected to any activity within the United States, I nonetheless believe it's critically important to ask American industries involved in all parts of the communications stream of commerce—from device manufacturers to fixed wire and wireless providers—whether they are satisfied that sufficient safeguards are in place to prevent similar breaches here in the United States,” said Bono Mack, who chairs the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.

Identical letters were sent to the United States Telecom Association, CTIA-The Wireless Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the Information Technology Industry Council, and the Consumer Electronics Association, according to a Bono Mack aide.

The groups were asked to respond by Aug. 2 to several questions, including what safeguards their member companies employ to ensure that U.S. consumers are adequately protected against the type of phone-hacking scandal currently being investigated in the United Kingdom.

Bono Mack also asked whether existing laws and regulations adequately protect Americans from similar privacy breaches.

By Alexei Alexis

A sample letter is available at http://op.bna.com/der.nsf/r?Open=rtar-8jvttf .