A U.S. Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill that would outlaw the practice of posing as a telephone or mobile phone customer to obtain phone records.The practice, called pretexting, is allegedly used by a number of online companies that sell phone records. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee\u2019s bill would make it illegal to acquire, use or sell a person\u2019s confidential phone records without that person\u2019s written consent."I really do believe ... this measure will prevent unscrupulous individuals from obtaining confidential phone records," said Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican and lead sponsor of the bill. "It\u2019s what Americans expect."The bill, an amended version of the Protecting Consumer Phone Records Act, would also require voice carriers\u2014including wireline, mobile and voice-over Internet protocol providers\u2014to notify customers when someone has gained access to their phone records without authorization. The bill would direct the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create phone-record regulations similar to those protecting financial information under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, passed by Congress in 1999.In addition, the bill calls for streamlining the two-step FCC process for fining groups such as data brokers for selling illegally obtained phone-record information, allowing the FCC to proceed without issuing a notice of investigation that could tip off those being investigated. The bill would allow civil lawsuits against people who illegally obtain or sell phone records, with a penalty of US$11,000 per record, up to a maximum fine of $11 million.The FCC could also fine violators $30,000 for each violation, with a cap of $3 million for continuing violations. The Senate bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote.In early March, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a similar phone-records privacy bill. Members of Congress have targeted the sale of phone records as an issue after media reports in recent months showed that people could buy phone logs, home addresses and other personal information online for less than $100. In January, the Chicago Police Department warned its officers that criminals could buy their phone records online.-Grant Gross, IDG News ServiceFor related news coverage, read House Panel Approves Data Protection Bill.Keep checking in at our CSO Security Feed page for updated news coverage.