Digital privacy bill rings true with House

Wednesday, March 3, 1999

The U.S. House has passed a bill that would make it illegal both to intercept and to divulge information gathered from an intentionally overheard cell-phone conversation.

The House passed the Wireless Privacy Enhancement Act of 1999 on Feb. 25 by a vote of 403 to 3.

Bill sponsor Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., also introduced an amendment to the bill on Feb. 25. Luke Rose, legislative assistant to Wilson, says the amendment makes it clear that a third party — such as a reporter — unaware that information given to him or her was from an intercepted cell-phone conversation would not be liable for publishing the information.

The amendment passed by a voice vote and no one spoke against the bill on the floor.

Greg Nojeim, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the bill would improve current law by ensuring that only “intentional interception of cell-phone conversations something that is subject to civil liability.”

A spokeswoman in Wilson's office said the bill had not been sent to a Senate committee but expected it would be soon.