Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cablevision called but insisted on recording our conversation. I declined.

A couple of days ago a guy (Mathew, I think) from Cablevision called to discuss what's described in my previous post:

New York State Public Service Commission complaint against Cablevision for collecting Social Security numbers.

Complaints have also been filed with the FCC, Social Security Administartion and a message sent to the New York State Attorney General.  Messages sent to both U.S. Senators and member of the House of Representatives.  Oh, and Executive Director White Plains Cable TV.


I think Cablevision guy was referring to my complaint with the New York State Public Service Commission. No sooner had he announced the reason for his call he informed me that the call was being recorded for quality purposes. Note:
1. Cablevision guy informed but did not ask permission.  I know because I asked him about that later.
2. Cablevision guy did not say what is usually said by any company when the make a similar statement: that it might be recorded.  Cablevision guy stated flatly that it was being recorded.

I asked if I can have a copy of the recording.  No.  I asked for a transcript.  No.  We then engaged in some back and forth, during which Cablevision guy stated that my request for a copy was being denied because the recording was proprietary.  Stuff like that reinforces the distinct impression that they're just making it up as they go along.

I pointed out that I was on the call, so what could be proprietary but Cablevision guy was firm on this.  The call didn't last too long but since I don't have a copy of the recording I can only provide my best recollection.

There are two things that federal and state legislatures need to do:
1. Prohibit private companies, especially those providing utility and pseudo-utility services, from demanding that a customer provide them with his/her Social Security number.
2. Ban the recording of conversations unless a copy and/or transcript is made available to the consumer.

Here is part of a reply I received from the Social Security Administration:
date:Sat, Jun 20, 2015 at 11:18 AM

The Social Security number (SSN) was originally devised to keep an accurate record of each individual’s earnings and, subsequently, to monitor benefits paid under the Social Security program.  However, use of the SSN as a general identifier has grown to the point where it is the most commonly used and convenient identifier for all types of record keeping systems in the United States...

If a business or other enterprise asks you for your SSN, you can refuse to give it.  However, that may mean doing without the purchase or service for which your number was requested.  For example, utility companies and other services ask for a Social Security number, but do not need it; they can do a credit check or identify the person in their records by alternative means
Giving your number is voluntary, even when you are asked for the number directly.  If requested, you should ask why your number is needed, how your number will be used, what law requires you to give your number, and what the consequences are if you refuse.  The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number.  The decision is yours.


Unfortunately, when a company with monopoly or duopoly power in an industry asks it is really a demand.

I call upon my elected representatives to pass legislation to fix this.

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