Financial Privacy: The Shortcomings of the Federal Financial Services Modernization Act

The new federal law, the Financial Services Modernization Act, enables three industries to affiliate under one corporate roof -- banking, insurance, and securities. The Act requires that banks and financial services provide an "opt-out" for customers to restrict the sale of personal information to third parties. But it gives no ability for customers to restrict the sharing of data between and among affiliates.

2001: The GLB Odyssey -- We're Not There Yet: How Consumers Rial Privacy Notices and Recommendations for Improving Them

Given the complexity and limitations of GLB's privacy provisions, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) undertook a major project to educate consumers about the new law and their right to prevent information sharing. The PRC launched this project with the premise that such an educational program would fill the gap left by questions unanswered from consumers' review of the notices required by GLB. Instead, what we found was that the majority of consumers who contacted us had heard or read media stories about the GLB notices and realized they had ignored the notices that their financial institutions had mailed to them in previous months. Few of the consumers who contacted us had actually noticed or read the notices. They were worried that they had missed the opportunity to prevent the sharing of their customer data with other companies.

Comments of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the Utility Consumers' Action Network on Proposed Privacy of Consumer Financial Information Regulations (Gramm-Leach Bliley Act)

As our experiences demonstrate, even information sharing among affiliates can be harmful unless consumers receive affirmative notice of the nature of the business that received the information in addition to the nature of the product being marketed. We welcome those provisions in the proposed regulations that require financial institutions to identify the types of businesses engaged in by affiliates and unaffiliated third parties to whom they disclose confidential data. However, we believe that the G-L-B Act and the proposed regulations do not go far enough in protecting unwary consumers from direct marketing by affiliates who may sell products that are more risky than those offered by the financial institution the consumers do business with. The inability of consumers to "opt-out" of data sharing among affiliates exposes consumers to the kinds of marketing abuses suffered by our three elderly UCAN members.

Consumers' Financial Privacy Act Testimony

I am Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. We are one of 15 consumer groups supporting Assemblymember Sheila Kuehl's AB 1707. The two most critically important provisions of this bill are the disclosure requirement and the opt-in standard for the sharing of customer information with company affiliates and third parties.

I will make five points this afternoon, regarding: change, fraud, privacy, consumer benefits, and business costs.

Letter to California Legislators and Governor Gray Davis by 15 Consumer-related Organizations in Favor of Strong Opt-in Financial Privacy Legislation

The undersigned organizations urge your support of legislation giving customers of financial institutions stronger rights of privacy over their customer information.

This is a critical time for California consumers. In 1999 Congress passed and the President signed the Financial Services Modernization Bill. This far-reaching law enables banks to become affiliated with insurance companies and brokerage firms. This law contains only the weakest of customer privacy provisions - requiring financial institutions to provide customers an opt-out opportunity before selling customer data to unaffiliated third parties.1

Nonprofit Organizations and Privacy: Responsible Mailing List Management

We got a call from a woman who had written over 2,000 letters in the past couple years, asking to be taken off various and sundry mailing lists. She kept detailed records of all her correspondence and its effect. The one entity that was the most troublesome to her was a nonprofit organization -- she wrote it 18 times to no avail. It was the Republican National Committee

Opt Out Sample of Sharing Financial Information Letter


[Date]

[Your address]

[Name of company]

[Company's address as shown in the privacy notice]

RE: Opt-Out Instructions for Account #______________

Dear [name if given in the privacy notice]:

Following are my instructions with regard to your information sharing and sales policies:

1. You do not have my permission to share my personally identifiable information with
nonaffiliated third party companies or individuals. I am asserting my rights under the

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