Topic:
CONFIDENTIALITY OF INFORMATION; CRIME VICTIMS; FRAUD; HANDICAPPED;
Location:
HANDICAPPED; PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATIONS;

OLR Research Report


May 30, 2008

 

2008-R-0339

CONFIDENTIALITY OF TRS CONVERSATIONS

By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst

You asked for a discussion of the confidentiality of conversations made over the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS), which serves deaf and hearing impaired people. You were particularly interested in cases where the communications assistant relaying the call believes that a caller may be trying to victimize the deaf or hearing impaired person, e.g., by making a fraudulent sales pitch.

TRS is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under 47 C.F.R. 64.601 - 64.605. These regulations require that, with very limited exceptions, TRS conversations be kept confidential. The communications assistants may not disclose the content of any relayed conversation regardless of its content. The disclosure exceptions are listed in federal law (47 U.S.C. 605) and address such things as providing information about a conversation in response to a subpoena or on demand of other lawful authority. The regulations generally bar communications assistants from keeping records of the content of any conversation. Communications assistants must relay all conversations verbatim unless the relay user specifically requests summarization, or if the user requests interpretation of an American Sign Language call (if a TRS conversation takes place over the Internet). The regulations are available online at www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/4regs.html.

According to staff in FCC's Disability Rights Office, the regulations do not permit a communications assistant to intervene in a conversation, even if she or he believes that the caller may be engaged in fraud or other types of crime. They note that TRS providers (such as Sprint, which provides TRS for Connecticut residents) are not law enforcement agencies. In practice, however, the staff believe that some TRS providers have policies that allow the communications assistant or the assistant's supervisor to intervene. If the assistant or supervisor believes that there is evidence of fraud, he or she will inform the caller of this and allow the caller to hang up.

KM:tjo