Financial Privacy Notices: Do They Really Want You to Know What They're Saying?

"Because we value your privacy.. we may sell your personal financial information." Does this make sense? Of course, not. But, that is precisely the message many banks and other financial companies are now sending to their customers. However, this message -- blurred by fine print, big words, long sentences and marketing jargon -- is far from clear.

July 1st Privacy Notice Deadline is For Banks, Not Customers

Financial institutions have until July 1, 2001, to send privacy notices to their customers. The notices are required by the Financial Services Modernization Act, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act or GLB.

"Consumers have a continuing right to opt-out," said Tena Friery, Research Director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "This applies even if notices have been lost or, as is quite common, mistaken for "junk mail" and thrown in the trash."

Financial Privacy Notices: Shorter is Better

For business, the goal should be not only to provide a notice that satisfies the legal requirement, but one that consumers can easily understand. Although practices may vary from company to company, the bottom line is always the same: Companies either share information with affiliates and third parties or not. Consumers either have the right to opt-out or they don't.

Thirty-One Privacy and Civil Liberties Organizations Urge Google to Suspend Gmail

The World Privacy Forum and 30 other privacy and civil liberties organizations have written a letter calling upon Google to suspend its Gmail service until the privacy issues are adequately addressed. The letter also calls upon Google to clarify its written information policies regarding data retention and data sharing among its business units.

Consumer and Privacy Groups Urge Google to Post a Link to Its Privacy Policy from Its Home Page

A coalition of privacy and consumer organizations from California to Washington, D.C. have urged Google to post a prominent link on its homepage to its privacy policy. In a letter released June 3rd, 2008, the groups say this is required by California law and is the widespread practice of commercial web sites.

Why Patients Won't Understand Their HIPAA Privacy Notices (Hochhauser)

I downloaded and analyzed six HIPAA privacy notice examples and 31 HIPAA privacy notices. Using several readability tools, I found that they were written at 2nd-4th year college reading levels -- instead of in plain language as required by federal HIPAA regulations

Compliance vs. Communication: Readability of HIPAA Notices (Hochhauser)

In April 2003, patients in the US began receiving Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy notices from their doctors, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other "covered entities" that use their personal health information. As part of the HIPAA regulatory guidelines, privacy notices were to be written in "plain language." They are not.

Comments Submitted to the Internal Revenue Service: Disclosure and Use of Tax Preparation Data Notice 2005-93 and REG-137243-02

At no time is one's expectation of privacy greater than with tax preparation. The proposed rules address privacy concerns in some important ways by requiring consumer consent where none was previously required. At the same time, the rules open the door for far more insidious privacy invasions by allowing tax return information to be used for marketing and shared by preparers with "any person."

Tell the IRS that Allowing Tax Preparers to Sell Taxpayer Data to Marketers Is a Bad Idea

At tax time, like most people, you are concerned about the bottom line: Will I get a refund or will I have to pay? Privacy may never enter your mind, but perhaps it should. Under a new IRS proposal, among the papers you are asked to sign, could be a consent form that gives your tax preparer your okay to sell your entire tax return.

Keep Your Internet Searches Private

Internet users were shocked to learn that the search queries of over 600,000 individuals were exposed online by AOL recently. Although the personal names of AOL users had been replaced with numbers, apparently for a research project, reporters and others were able to determine the identities of several people. Ixquick, a search engine based in the Netherlands, promises it will permanently delete all users’ personal search details from its log files.

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