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Cellular Firms Reject Bid to Monitor Industry

Business: Plan backed by government to use new technology to regulate phone users is called too costly. Privacy issue is cited.

September 20, 1996|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — A panel representing the wireless communications industry voted Thursday to reject a government-backed plan to allow law enforcement agencies to monitor cellular phone users, it was reported today.

The vote underlines the bitter dispute between the cellular industry and the Justice Department, which contends that the government has the right to use powerful new surveillance technology, the New York Times said..

The technology can determine the location of a cellular phone caller within a fraction of a second and rapidly monitor the status of cellular phone voice mail, conference calls and other features of wireless phones.

The industry argues that the new technology would be too expensive to administer, and privacy groups say it would give law enforcement too much power over citizens, the report said.

James K. Kallstrom, the deputy FBI director in New York City, said: "The notion that we in law enforcement should not be able to take advantage of the technology is a crazy notion."

Thursday's vote, in Los Angeles, by a technical committee of the network of cellular phone service providers and manufacturers came in response to a document the FBI has been circulating to industry executives that reportedly specifies what wireless data must be accessible to law enforcement.

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