Privacy Advocates Call for Tough Regulation of Financial Data and Stronger Identity Theft Protections

The recent security breaches of sensitive customer information held by ChoicePoint and Bank of America have underscored how vulnerable consumers are to threats of identity theft and the need for stronger protections to reduce such fraud. Watchdog groups are calling for new laws that provide proper oversight of businesses that collect and sell sensitive consumer information and tougher safeguards to give consumers the tools they need to stop identity theft before it starts.

Online Information Brokers and Your Privacy

There are many websites that sell or provide for free, personal information about individuals. This information is gathered from many sources including white pages listings (directory assistance), publicly-available sources and public records.

PRC Recommends Wireless Cell Phone 411 Directory Should be Complete Opt In

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) advocates that the wireless 411 directory that is slated to be launched in early 2005 provide a strict opt-in mechanism that requires express consent before cell phone numbers are listed in the directory. The PRC also believes that federal legislation should be strengthened to ensure this standard is met.

"We believe there are several reasons to recommend the opt-in standard, one being privacy," said Jordana Beebe, PRC Communications Director. Though the wireless industry touts their directory will be an opt-in standard, Beebe counters, "We are also concerned about the unregulated wireless industry overseeing the directory without legislative oversight."

Free Credit Reports to End

The only credit reporting bureau to offer free credit reports to consumers will halt this practice March 1, 1997.

Experian, formerly known as TRW, has been providing free credit reports since 1992. It had expected the other two major credit bureaus, Equifax and Trans Union, to follow suit, but that has not happened. Further, consumer advocates had pushed Congress to mandate free credit reports when it was considering amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1996. But instead, legislators capped the price at $8 per report.

Nowhere to Turn: Victims Speak Out on Identity Theft - A Survey of Identity Theft Victims and Recommendations for Reform

Identity theft is a growing crisis in the United States. As the crime becomes more visible, stories of victims' complex experiences permeate the media. Identity theft occurs when someone invades your life, taking pieces of your personal identifying information as his or her own, and ruins your financial reputation. In addition, victims of this crime face extreme difficulties attempting to clear the damaged credit, or even criminal record, caused by the thief.

Groups Oppose Data Mining of Health Information by Financial Institutions

Today, the Health Privacy Project (HPP), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and 28 other groups, including the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, opposing any changes to the new medical privacy regulation that would give a green light to banks and other financial institutions to access sensitive, personal medical information. The organizations include health care advocacy, labor, consumer, disability rights, and health care provider groups.

Consumers Can Get Free “Specialty” Consumer Reports Starting December 1, 2004

SAN DIEGO, CA – The arrival of free credit reports on December 1st is getting a lot of attention these days. (www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm) But there is another kind of report, called “specialty consumer reports,” that individuals can obtain at no charge beginning on the first of the month. The federal law that requires credit reporting bureaus to provide free reports is the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, also known as FACTA. The law also gives consumers the right to one free report prepared by a “nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency” that compiles files on consumers.

Request Disclosure of Information Sharing Under California's Shine the Light Act

On January 1, 2005, California's Shine the Light Act came into effect. For more information about the Act, see the PRC's press release at www.privacyrights.org/ar/SB27Release.htm. In essence, certain businesses must provide California residents with a way to find out what personal information has been shared and with whom within the twelve months prior to receiving your request for disclosure.

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