Images de page
PDF
ePub

scribers in Virginia, and a lot of benefits have been realized. I could point out the obvious benefit of deterring obscene callers, but I think the service has proved to be even more valuable in helping law enforcement officials.

For example, a family in Fairfax County, VA, had been out of town on vacation and came home to find they had been robbed. Upon checking their Caller ID box, they found several calls that had been made at late hours from a number they did not recognize. The police were able to trace the strange number which led them to the stolen property.

Mr. Chairman, I'm not convinced of the need for Federal legislation on this issue. In my State, concerns regarding Caller ID have already been worked out by the State corporation commission which has decided that the blocking option is not needed. This decision has also been reached by other States with Caller ID. In my view, the benefits of Caller ID without the blocking option far outweigh any downside of the service. Just as an individual has the right to a peephole on his front door to see who is knocking before opening the door, one has the right to see who has chosen to call on the telephone before answering.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to express my views on this issue.

Mr. Kastenmeier. I thank my colleague.

I would like to acknowledge the presence of a cosponsor of the bill, Mike Synar of Oklahoma.

Mr. Synar. I just want to thank the chairman for holding this hearing on a very important subject.

Mr. Kastenmeier. Our first witness today is a good friend and fellow colleague of mine from the State of Wisconsin, Senator Herb Kohl. The Senator is a leading proponent of Caller ID legislation. In fact, he was the first one to introduce legislation on the issue in either body. I want to welcome him this morning. I'm sure I speak for the committee when I say we're looking forward to hearing his advice on this very interesting and controversial topic.

Senator Kohl.

STATEMENT OF HON. HERB KOHL, A SENATOR IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WISCONSIN

Mr. Kohl. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am very pleased that you called this hearing today and that you've also invited me to testify.

For many years, Mr. Chairman, you have been a champion of privacy rights and individual liberties, and so I'm especially pleased to work with you on this legislation. You and your staff have done an excellent job of putting together what I know will be a comprehensive and fair discussion of Caller ID. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mike Synar for his support on this issue.

I would like to briefly comment on what I see as the relevant issues here today. This is really not a debate over the value of Caller ID. Most everyone thinks that Caller ID is a good service, and I agree. I, like many other people, want to see it spread as quickly as possible. But the question is, in what form should it spread? Should there be forced Caller ID in which the phone company requires our phone numbers to be displayed every time we make a call, even if we have an unlisted number? Or should there be voluntary Caller ID, in which callers decide when they wish to give out their numbers? Keep in mind, it's easy to get someone's address with their phone number, so mandatory disclosure can mean revealing where you live and even, very possibly, your name—whether you want the other person to know or not.

Forced Caller ID violates our fundamental right to privacy. I believe we have the right to call a crisis hot line or a Senator's office or an IRS help line without having to say who we are. I believe the phone company shouldn't be able to compel us to identify ourselves when we call a business for information.

There are even times when forced Caller ID is dangerous. Prosecutors often call witnesses at night from home. Surely they should not be compelled to reveal where they live. Battered women often take refuge with friends and then call home to check on one thing or another. They should not be compelled to tell their abusing husbands where they're staying. There are many other dangerous situations, but the point is simply this: The phone company cannot determine when it's safe to reveal your name, your number, and your address. There are clearly too many circumstances and too many variables.

So the answer must be to allow callers to retain freedom of choice, and our Telephone Privacy Act would do just that. Let callers dial three digits on the phone when they want to make private calls. With free, per call blocking, callers can display their numbers when calling friends and family, and they can keep their numbers confidential when they feel the need to do so. The recipients of blocked calls will always see the word "private" flash on the Caller ID box. Then, if they wish, they can ignore the call, screen it with a tape machine, or simply answer the telephone.

Some phone companies would like to frame this whole issue in terms of obscene phone calls. This approach might make for good marketing, and even larger profits, but it is ultimately deceptive. The real truth is that other services such as Call Trace more effectively combat abusive phone calls, even if there is Caller ID blocking. Therefore, it turns out that the ability exists to protect victims and privacy at the same time.

But, Mr. Chairman, before we go any further with Caller ID, we have got to make sure that it's legal. This summer, the Pennsylvania Court of Appeals ruled that Caller ID violates that State's wiretap law, which is similar to the Federal version that you helped draft. The Telephone Privacy Act would amend the Federal law to authorize Caller ID.

There is one more reason to pass legislation. Blocking already exists for the wealthy. A new 900 number allows people to make private calls for $2 a minute. I believe that is wrong. As a matter of fairness, phone companies should make privacy available to everyone, rich or poor. Blocking is a matter of equity as well as privacy.

I will wrap it up, Mr. Chairman, by pointing out that all around the country States are requiring blocking, and telephone companies are opting for it. I understand that even NYNEX—one of the last holdouts—will be offering per call blocking soon. This recognition is occurring for a crucial reason: Caller ID with blocking offers privacy protection for callers and for recipients alike. That's a powerful rationale and that is why I believe our legislation will soon become law.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you very much. I am pleased to be here, and I am sure this will be an excellent hearing.

Mr. Kastenmeier. Thank you very much for your statement, Senator Kohl. I think it was an excellent statement to start the hearing with.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Kohl follows:]

[ocr errors][merged small]

Testimony of Senator Herb Kohl

Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and

Administrative Practice

U.S. Bouse of Representatives

Hearing on Caller ID

September 19, 1990

I'd like to begin by commenting briefly on what I see as the relevant issues here.

This really is not a debate over the value of Caller ID. Host everyone thinks that Caller ID is a good service, and I agree: I want to see it spread as quickly as possible. But the question is, in what form should it spread? Should there be "forced Caller ID," in which the phone company requires our phone numbers to be displayed every time we make a call — even if we have an unlisted number? Or should there be "voluntary Caller ID," in which callers decide when they wish to give out their numbers? Since a call recipient can obtain the caller's address with the phone number, mandatory disclosure means revealing where you live, whether or not you want the other person to know.

Forced Caller ID violates our fundamental right to privacy. I believe we have the right to call a crisis hotline, or a Senator's office — or an IRS help line — without having to say who we are. And I believe the phone company shouldn't be able to compel us to identify ourselves when we call a business for information.

There are even times when forced Caller ID is dangerous. Prosecutors often call witnesses at night from home. Surely they should not be compelled to reveal where they live. Battered women often take refuge with friends, and then call home to check on one thing or another. They should not be compelled to tell their abusing husbands where they're staying. There are many other dangerous situations, but the point is this: the phone company can't determine when it's safe to reveal your number and address. There are just too many circumstances and too many variables.

The answer must be to allow callers to retain freedom of choice, and the Telephone Privacy Act would do just that. Let callers dial three digits on the phone when they want to make private calls. With free, per-call blocking, callers can display their numbers when calling friends and family — and they can keep their numbers confidential when they need to do so. The recipients of calls will always see the word "private" flash on the Caller ID box. Then, If they wish, they can ignore the call, screen it with a tape machine, or simply answer the phone.

Some phone companies would like to frame this whole issue in terms of obscene phone calls. This approach might make for good marketing — and larger profits — but it's ultimately deceptive. The real truth is that other services, such as Call Block and Call Trace, more effectively combat abusive calls. For example, Call Trace lets the victim of a harassing phone call automatically send the number of the the harasser to the authorities after hanging up — merely by dialing a three-digit code. And these new technologies work even if a caller withholds his number — in other words, even if there is blocking. It turns out that the ability exists to protect victims and privacy at the same time.

But before we go any further with Caller ID, we've got to make sure that it's legal. This summer, the Pennsylvania court of appeals ruled that Caller ID violates that state's wiretap law — which is similar to the federal version that you helped draft. The Telephone Privacy Act would amend the federal law to authorize Caller ID.

There's one more reason to pass legislation. Blocking already exists for the wealthy. A new 900 service allows people to make private calls for $2 a minute. I believe that's wrong. As a matter of fairness, I think phone companies should make privacy available to everyone, rich and poor. Blocking is a matter of equity as well as privacy.

I want to conclude by calling attention to something happening outside of this hearing room. All around the country, states are requiring blocking, and telephone companies are opting for it. And I understand that even Nynex — one of the last holdouts — will be offering per call blocking soon. This recognition is occurring for one crucial reason: Caller ID with blocking offers privacy protection for callers and recipients alike. That's a powerful rationale, and that's why I believe our legislation will soon become law.

Thank you.

« PrécédentContinuer »