Your Cell Privacy For Sale

Computers and cell phones have changed our lives, and a lot of those changes are positive. But such technology has a downside, including the erosion of privacy.

Now you can go online and buy other people's phone records – and it's legal, reports CBS News correspondent Mika Brzezinski.

Who you call, when you call and for how long – you might think it's your personal business.

But it's all for sale.

One woman, who asked us not to reveal her identity, says her jealous husband purchased her cell phone records for $89.95 and used them to spy on her.

"He basically just wanted to see who I was talking to, called them up, left threatening messages," she says.

Virtually anyone can be their own private eye with dozens of Internet companies advertising the sale of cell phone and landline records. Average price: about $100.

They are called online data brokers and are largely unregulated by the government. The primary way they get their information is by simply calling the phone company and impersonating an account holder. With social security numbers and personal data so easy to track online, accessing almost anyone's account is simple.

Chris Hoofnagle represents the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which is calling on the government to prosecute data brokers.

"These records are even being purchased on police officers and FBI agents," he says.

In a complaint to the FTC, they accuse 40 companies of engaging in fraud, including BestPeopleSearch.com, owned by Noah Wieder.

"It's not illegal and it's a legitimate business," Wieder says.

Of the 40 companies we tried to contact, Wieder was the only one to agree to an on camera interview. He says services like his help track down criminals, deadbeat dads and runaway children. Furthermore, he claims he screens his clients.

Wieder says his company does its best to know clients' motivations.

"It's self regulated. It's just like alcohol. In the wrong hands, it's gonna be dangerous," Wieder says.

But some in Congress are working to change that, introducing legislation next week that would criminalize the accessing and selling of phone logs. But that is little comfort to the young mother who fears her estranged husband may still be tracking her every call.

"My privacy was sold," she says. "How is it even safe to have a cell phone?"

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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