On March 3, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an emergency temporary waiver to Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and telecommunications carriers that serve them to allow these entities and law enforcement agencies to access the caller-ID information of threatening and harassing callers. Senator Charles Schumer requested FCC action in response to the recent phone threats against JCCs in New York and nationally.

The FCC has issued a public notice with a comment date of March 17 requesting responses on whether JCCs should be granted a waiver of section 64.1601 of the CFF’s rules, which prohibits terminating carriers from passing the calling party number to a called party where a privacy indicator has been triggered by the caller. Access to the calling party number could assist in identifying persons placing threatening calls to JCCs. The granted waiver applies use conditions including transmitting of any caller numbers to law enforcement through secure communications and the destruction of the caller information in a secure manner after a reasonable retention period. The FCC seeks comments on whether to extend its emergency temporary waiver on a permanent basis, including methods to best facilitate law enforcement’s ability to identify individuals making the threatening calls while maintaining the privacy of callers who utilize calling party number blocking for lawful purposes.

The FCC has rarely issued such emergency temporary waivers as it has done here. The FCC does so when the public interest requires access to calling party number transmission despite any countervailing privacy request from the calling party. For example, the FCC has recently granted waivers of calling party number privacy options in response to school districts that had received bomb threats. Weighing the applicable circumstances, the FCC evaluates carefully any limitations to the allowance of calling party numbers.