Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon has obtained a court order to prevent an Internet business and its owners from offering to sell the records of cell phone customers in Missouri.
The defendants, who do business online under several names but most prominently as Locatecell.com, have been sued for violating state consumer protection laws by misrepresenting that it is legal for them to obtain, possess and sell the phone records.
The temporary restraining order, issued by Judge Thomas Brown in Cole County Circuit Court, is believed to be the first such action against by a state against Internet businesses that illegally sell cell phone records.
Named as defendants are First Data Solutions Inc. and its principal owner, James Kester, of Knoxville, Tenn.; and 1st Source Information Specialists Inc., of Tamarac, Fla., and its directors Kenneth W. Gorman and Steven Schwartz of Jensen Beach, Fla.
"A company that we believe has been illegally obtaining the private information of consumers will be prohibited from doing business in Missouri," Nixon said. "This is a victory for the privacy concerns of Missouri citizens."
According to the defendants' Web site, for $65 anyone may enter a cell phone number and then receive the name and address of a cell phone user. For $110, anyone can enter a cell phone number and Locatecell.com will provider a list of calls made from that number.
Nixon had alleged in his suit that the defendants did not have authorization from the wireless and cellular telephone service providers to access the customer information and records that they advertise on their Web site.
The court order prevents the defendants from attempting to obtain, offering for sale, or selling any information from any cellular or land line telephone service provider regarding any of that provider's customers in Missouri. The defendants also cannot take orders from Missourians seeking telephone records. They also are prohibited from:
• Using the name or identity of any employee of any cellular or land line telephone service provider for any purpose;
• Contacting any cellular or land line telephone service provider for any purpose other than to access any of the defendants' own information;
• Possessing any Missouri customer information obtained from cellular or land line telephone service providers, regardless of form or manner of storage.
The Attorney General continues to seek preliminary and permanent injunctions against the defendants and is asking the court to order appropriate restitution for consumers and penalties for the state.
Nixon's office initiated an investigation into the company on Jan. 19, when an undercover investigator made an online transaction with Locatecell.com to purchase the records of calls made on his own private cell phone. Upon receipt of the records on Jan. 20, the Attorney General's Office filed for the temporary restraining order.