Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
by Supervisor Mike Nevin
Contact: Supervisor Mike Nevin, San Mateo Co. Board of Supervisors
Redwood City - The Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted an ordinance today to protect consumers' financial information privacy. With this ordinance, San Mateo County has become the first jurisdiction in California to provide consumers privacy protections in excess of those found in federal law, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. This ordinance would require financial institutions to ask for and receive consumerís permission before disclosing consumerís confidential information to third parties.
"The Board, with its unanimous vote, has signaled its commitment to protecting the interests of consumers. Requiring financial institutions to get permission before sharing confidential consumer information is the only meaningful way to truly gauge a consumerís wishes," said Supervisor Mike Nevin, author of the privacy ordinance. "Placing the responsibility on consumers to stop the selling of their information defies common sense."
"While only a small step, the adoption of this ordinance sends a strong message to legislators in Sacramento and Washington D.C. that the time for meaningful financial information privacy protections has arrived," said Supervisor Nevin. The federal Financial Services Modernization Act, commonly known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, requires consumers to "opt out," that is to take affirmative action to tell the financial institution that they do not want their information shared with others. Senate Bill 773, authored by State Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), would provide greater protections for consumers than those of Gramm-Leach-Bliley. However, the bill is stalled on the Assembly floor due to heavy lobbying efforts of the banking industry and other financial institutions. "The failure of the state Legislature to act only highlights legislatorsí commitment to financial institutions over the interests of their constituents."
"I am pleased with the passage of this ordinance, which can serve as a model for other local jurisdictions to act at a time when Sacramento has been unable to provide leadership," said supervisor Mike Nevin, author of the privacy ordinance. Supervisor Nevin will send copies of the model ordinance to all 57 other California counties, all of the cities located in San Mateo County and to the League of California Cities. Other cities and counties are considering similar efforts.
"It comes down to a simple question really. Should financial institutions get permission before sharing someoneís confidential financial information? The simple answer is yes," said Supervisor Nevin. "My mother said I should ask for permission before using other peopleís things. It should it be no different for financial institutions."
San Mateo Co. Board of Supervisors web site
San Mateo Co. Financial Privacy Ordinance
This press release was posted on Privacy Rights Clearinghouse web site, August 8, 2002.