24 February 2010

Caller ID, wiretapping, call recording, and the federal Do Not Call list

There is a witches brew of rules that people making outbound telephone calls need to thread through. Also, the recipient of a call needs to observe some as well. Let's start in reverse order: 
Caller ID single line unit with serial out

Particularly, in the US, some states require consent from only ONE party to a telephone communication; others require TWO [or ALL, in the case of a conference call] participants to so consent. The asserted misconduct case of Linda Tripp in Maryland comes to mind. Linda got into some hot water for chatting up Monica's lovelife with some girltalk about Bill Clinton and recording it without needed consents from "that woman, Ms. Lewinsky" and then turning those recordings over to Kenneth Starr's office

Neither side of the aisle is without stain in this space, it seems; recall that back earlier in the Clinton administration that a couple in Florida recorded a conference call bridge leg, on which the cell phone conversation of Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio), was connected. They later pled out to a criminal charge concerning this. That call (said to have been intercepted within the state of Florida through a common radio scanner) also included then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and other House Republican leadership folks. The tape turned up, inter alia, into the possession of Representative James McDermott (D-Wash.), who then flipped the tape to The New York Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This drew a lawsuit from Boehner against McDermott, seeking to impose to civil liability for violation of the federal [anti-]wiretap law, alleging that no effective consent existed

Stock brokers commonly record ALL calls, and I assume have paperwork in place at account opening time, that effectively and irrevocably obtain consent to such monitoring and recordation, and as I think it through, must contain some sort of representation and warranty by the customer that all parties connected from their side of the call brought in have also consented. Clearly, sometimes this turns out NOT to be the case, and yet I do not recall seeing any litigation as to improper recording of a conference bridge. Curious

And then there is the federal Do Not Call list -- seemingly a shield for the consumer to ward off unwanted solicitation calls from unknown third parties. All the phone numbers under my control have been registered with the enforcing agency, the FTC, and should be showing up on the database tapes for telephone solicitors to elide. This does not happen of course -- sadly, anonymous VOIP calls, false and forged Caller ID information, and simple omission of caller ID data prevails; the ways to dodge the requirement are well know to telemarketers, it seems

But I have been working in the caller ID adjunct industry -- if you need real time screen pop information of inbound callers, I have been a rep for TelComp -- for longer than I care to remember. Be sure to mention that Russ sent you if you call Larry directly, or contact me for a system design and suggested implementation

I was on the phone with Larry earlier today. We have provided the web and email presence since the start. The domain registration says 1995, but I know we did a trade show in LA before that with a web presence up. I was doing a bit of debugging on SMTP AUTH issues with him. Commonly we will leave an open line when we do this, and I listened to him field calls for an hour or so. Larry is endlessly patient on support calls, and I hope to be as patient when I am doing support. ;)  a BOFH

The call had discussed industry trends and practices, and in part the topics of this blog post were fresh in my mind, for we 'talked shop' during running down his email issue

The next call, not two minutes later, went like this:

Phone rings, and the caller ID has no name information, is from a number not known in a lookup to my real time 'whitelist' database, and is from out of the local area code --- a potential outbound solicitation call

Me: Good afternoon. May I help you?

Other party identifies himself as calling from "Merchant Services" and asks for 'the decision maker' at my business.

Me: That's me, all right; we have a practice and policy of recording all calls for quality and training purposes. May I have your consent to such recording, please?

Other party: (confused) uhh -- OK, I guess

Me: Great, and thank you. How may I help you?

Other party: Well, I am calling about your merchant services account. I was calling to make sure you were getting the best rate ...

Me: (interrupting) Sure -- thanks. What is your firm's name and address please?

Other party: ummm

Me: (interrupting) ... you see, I need that because this is a residential number that is on the Do Not Call list, and I need that information to send the lawsuit papers to ...

Other party: (click)

Much more satisfying that simply silently hanging up at my end. Feel free to "clip and save" this handy outline. A copy to crib from at each phone just may come in handy  zing