North Dakota Votes for "Opt-In" Financial Privacy


On June 11, 2002, voters in North Dakota spoke overwhelmingly in favor of financial privacy. A referendum which would prohibit banks from sharing, selling or otherwise disclosing personal financial information succeeded by a majority of three to one. This confirms what polls have been telling us for years. Consumers feel strongly about privacy, particularly when it comes to the sensitive information in bank records.

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.

Confusing E-Mail about Opt-Out Number Sends the Wrong Message


An unknown individual has broadcast an electronic mail message that has reached tens of thousands of consumers, confusing them with information that is only half correct.

The message explains, erroneously, that as of July 1, 2003, "the four major credit bureaus in the US will be allowed . to release your credit info, mailing addresses, phone numbers..... to anyone who requests it." This is not correct.

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: 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.

New Privacy Rights May Be Buried in "Junk" Mail


Now is not the time to toss junk mail and ignore inserts in your bank and credit card statements. "Watch your mail!" says Tena Friery, research director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Because of a new federal law, financial institutions are now mailing notices to consumers containing important information about their privacy rights. "Failure to pay attention to these privacy notices may result in sensitive financial data being sold to other companies for marketing and other purposes," warns Friery.

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.

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.

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.

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

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