Bankruptcy, Public Records and Privacy


The PRC and EFF recognize the long-standing principle that the public interest is served by open court proceedings, and that, in fact, public disclosure of bankruptcy proceedings is mandated by statute. However, we can conceive of no public interest to be served in a system that would readily subject individuals in bankruptcy to identity thieves and unscrupulous marketing. Access to an individual's personal information is obviously required in order for court personnel and bankruptcy trustees to do their jobs. But, access beyond this necessity to Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and other personal information on the Internet would seem to be an invitation for abuse.

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.

Identity Theft: How It Happens, Its Impact on Victims, and Legislative Solutions


I appreciate the ability to provide written and oral testimony on the skyrocketing crime of identity theft, its impact on victims, and possible solutions. And I commend you and the Subcommittee members for addressing this issue. My written testimony is in four parts:

  • Topic number one is the crime itself - what is identity theft, how much of it is going on, and why it is happening in epidemic proportions.

  • Second, I will discuss the many ways in which identity thieves obtain the bits and pieces of information they need to impersonate others -- mainly Social Security numbers (SSN) and credit card account numbers.

  • Third, I will explain some of the impacts on victims.

  • And fourth, I will recommend legislative and industry measures to prevent identity theft and to expedite the ability of victims to regain their financial health.

What's Missing from This Picture? Privacy Protection in the New Millennium


In the few minutes that I have this morning, I will present three vignettes that I have called "What's Missing in This Picture." These are:

  • Legislative Action in the Face of Strong Public Opinion Polls
  • Critical Analysis of Industry Assertions
  • Meaningful and Understandable Privacy Policies

Identity Theft: The Growing Problem of Wrongful Criminal Records


The victim of criminal identity theft may not know that someone has burdened them with a criminal record until they are stopped for a traffic violation, the officer runs a check on their driver's license number, and they're arrested on the spot. Or perhaps they apply for a job, are turned down, and obtain the results of the background check because the employer is actually complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (something that is not being done across the board, and which I'll talk about in a moment).

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

Preventing Identity Theft: Industry Practices Are the Key


Discussions on preventing identity theft often focus on steps consumers can take, such as shredding their trash and restricting access to their Social Security number (SSN). But realistically, while such measures can reduce the odds of becoming a victim, there is little consumers can do to actually prevent identity theft. The key to prevention, rather, is for businesses to establish responsible information-handling practices and for the credit industry to adopt stricter application verification procedures, among other strategies (see below).

Public Attitudes about the Privacy of Information


Privacy is such a personal issue that peoples' attitudes about it differ greatly. The willingness to provide access to personal information is often contingent on the reward for doing so. Such rewards often take the form of additional savings, coupons, and rebates. Since personal information has value, if you choose to withhold it, you may deny yourself

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