Phone Privacy

In your article (May 16), “House Panel Extends Privacy Protection,” the writer notes that a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee has approved legislation that would extend privacy protections “for the first time” to emerging new communications technologies including electronic mail, cellular mobile telephones and certain data transmissions.

I applaud the efforts of the federal government to protect the privacy of electronic communications; however, I would like to point out that this congressional action is not the first attempt to protect electronic communication. California was the first to act in this area.

Last year, California enacted legislation to extend its privacy protections to cellular radio telephone conversations. This legislation, which I authored, creates a right to privacy for cellular radio communications, makes it illegal to maliciously intercept a cellular conversation without the consent of all parties to the communication, and prohibits the manufacture, sale or use of any device designed exclusively to intercept such communications. Criminal sanctions were also established by the act.

There are more than 70,000 cellular mobile telephones in use in California today and the number is growing rapidly. Los Angeles has the most subscribers of any area in the nation. Whatever happens in Washington, California’s cellular mobile telephone users now have legal recourse against the deliberate invasion of their privacy.




Rosenthal is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Public Utilities.