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.

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

PRC Comments on Proposed HHS - Medical Records Privacy Rule

Even though the proposed rule lays the foundation for the implementation of fair information principles, it takes several steps backward and gravely endangers patient privacy in a number of areas, explained below. Because of the significant shortcomings of the proposed rule, in addition to the relatively limited opportunity for individuals to have been apprised of and comment on the rule, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends that the proposed rule be withdrawn and redrafted.

Interagency Proposal for Model Privacy Form under the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC)1 is pleased to comment on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR)2 to simplify the consumer disclosures required by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (“GLB”). With only a few minor suggestions, the PRC endorses and fully supports the model form adopted by the agencies. We direct our comments as follows:

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

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).

Consumers' Concerns about Financial Privacy and Security

I have been asked by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to present an overview of consumers' concerns about financial privacy and security. I think the best way for me to do that is to tell you about some of the cases that have come to my attention from people calling our hotline or sending e-mail messages.

Groups Submit Comments to National Banks Agency Opposing Preemption of States

The OCC's proposed revisions to 12 CFR Parts 7 and 34 of its regulations identify certain types of state laws that would be preempted for non-real estate loans made by national banks.

The scope of the OCC's proposal potentially affects consumer protection and privacy laws of many states. However, we limit our comments to the potential impact on California laws. Particularly troubling is the uncertain implication of the OCC's rulemaking for important identity theft laws that involve access to, and use of, credit reports. Of equal concern is the OCC's proposed regulation to preempt state laws that require national banks to give mandated statements to be included in billing or credit related documents.

Public Records on the Internet: The Privacy Dilemma

One of the most challenging public policy issues of our time is the balancing act between access to public records and personal privacy - the difficulty of accommodating both personal privacy interests and the public interest of transparent government. I will discuss the privacy implications of making public records containing personal information available on the Internet. I list nine negative consequences of the availability of public records online. I conclude by offering 11 recommendations for safeguarding personal privacy while upholding the public policy reason for providing access, that being to promote government accountability.

Statement on Outsourcing and Privacy

We at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse commend Senator Figueroa and the two Senate Committees for conducting a hearing on outsourcing, and for considering not only the employment implications but also the potential risks to the privacy and security of records containing sensitive personal information. I restrict my comments to the issues of privacy and security.


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