Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fifth Circuit strikes down Mississippi law making "non-harmful" caller ID spoofing illegal

In Teltech Systems, Inc. v. Bryant, No. 12-60027 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit held that a Mississippi law making it illegal to spoof caller ID information was preempted by a federal law which only made spoofing for harmful purposes illegal.

In 2010, Mississippi enacted the Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act which made it a misdemeanor for a person to spoof the identity or phone number of a caller. A federal law enacted later that year made it illegal to spoof such information "with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value." 47 U.S.C. § 227(e)(1). Thus, the Mississippi law prohibits all spoofing, but the federal law prohibits only harmful spoofing. The plaintiffs argued that Congress therefore intended to protect "non-harmful spoofing." Looking at the legislative history of the federal statute, the court agreed, finding that Congress intended to protect legitimate spoofing.

Many websites and smartphone apps allow users to spoof caller information. Many such apps also allow the user to disguise their voice and record the phone conversation.


Post a Comment