Statement of
U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
Ranking Democrat, House Subcommittee on
Telecommunications and the Internet
House Floor Consideration
of Caller ID “Spoofing” Legislation
June 12, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, HR 251, as amended.

I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the bill under consideration.

Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 4 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this bill, which I offer today with an amendment under suspension of the rules. This is a consensus, non-controversial bill and it is sponsored by our colleague Representative Engel (D-NY). A similar bill, sponsored by Full Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX), passed the House in the last Congress unanimously. I want to commend Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Fred Upton for his work and cooperation on this measure and commend Full Committee Chairman John Dingell for his efforts on this bill as well.

This legislation addresses issues regarding so-called “caller ID spoofing.”

“Spoofing” is when a caller masks or changes the caller ID information of their call in a way that disguises the true origination number of the caller. In many instances, a call recipient may be subject to pre-texting through spoofing, which can lead to fraud, personal ID theft, harassment, or otherwise put the safety of the call recipient in danger.

On the other hand, lest we think that spoofing always has nefarious aims, we must recognize that there may be circumstances when a person’s safety may be put in danger if their true and accurate call origination information is disclosed as well.

For instance, Members of Congress often have direct lines in their offices. In order to ensure that such lines do not become generally public, and therefore remain useful to us, it may be necessary to keep such direct numbers confidential and have the out-going caller ID information indicate a different number at which our offices can be reached for return calls. That gives the recipient a legitimate phone number to call back, but keeps confidential lines private.

There are many doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers, and other professionals who would similarly like to keep direct, confidential lines private in this way who have no intention of misleading anyone. In addition, there may be instances, for example when a woman at a shelter seeks to reach her children, when spoofing is important to safeguard someone’s safety. Moreover, informants to law enforcement tip lines or whistleblowers have additional reasons for why their calling information should remain private. We should not outlaw any of these practices and I think the legislation needs some improvement and clarification in these areas.

What we seek in caller ID policy is balance. This has been the case since we held hearings in the Telecommunications Subcommittee in the early 1990s on caller ID, when we sought to take into account emerging caller ID technology in a way that also allowed callers to block their origination number on a per call or per line basis. Technology also allowed call recipients to refuse to receive calls by anyone who was blocking their caller ID information from going through.

This bill also contains a provision, which was adopted as an amendment in the Committee, to task the Federal Communications Commission to examine whether or not it should revise its regulations with respect to non-commercial, pre-recorded voice messages sent to residential consumers.

The amendment I offer to this bill under suspension of the rules also contains a new provision, Section 4, “Effect on Other Laws.” The purpose of this section is not to create an explicit exception to the prohibitions contained in the bill, but simply clarifies that this legislation does not confer or authorize any new powers for any intelligence or law enforcement agency nor does it prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity of a law enforcement agency of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State, or of an intelligence agency of the United States, provided such activity is performed “in accordance with all applicable laws.” As such, it does not confer any new powers not otherwise contained in law, nor does it bless any activity previously conducted in contravention of any existing laws.

Mr. Speaker, again, I support this bill and urge Members to support it.

May 24, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer