Federal Agencies' Joint Request for Comment: Alternative Forms of Privacy Notices


The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB) requires financial institutions to give customers annual notice of how personal information is collected and disclosed, and, under limited circumstances, a means for customers to control information flow. The notices delivered to consumers, beginning with the effective date of July 1, 2001, until now have generated substantial criticism from all interested parties. As the ANPR notes, there have been broad-based concerns expressed by representatives of financial institutions, consumers, privacy advocates, and Members of Congress.

In response to numerous concerns expressed by all stakeholders about privacy notices, the FTC convened a workshop in December 2001, just five months after financial institutions were required to send the initial privacy notice to customers. To further address these continuing concerns, the Agencies have published the ANPR. That the Agencies are willing to revisit the issue of clear notice to consumers by considering a short-form notice is an encouraging sign for consumer privacy interests.

Compliance vs. Communication: Readability of HIPAA Notices (Hochhauser)


In April 2003, patients in the US began receiving Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy notices from their doctors, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other "covered entities" that use their personal health information. As part of the HIPAA regulatory guidelines, privacy notices were to be written in "plain language." They are not.

Why Patients Won't Understand Their HIPAA Privacy Notices (Hochhauser)


I downloaded and analyzed six HIPAA privacy notice examples and 31 HIPAA privacy notices. Using several readability tools, I found that they were written at 2nd-4th year college reading levels -- instead of in plain language as required by federal HIPAA regulations

Lost in the Fine Print: Readability of Financial Privacy Notices (Hochhauser)


Readability analyses of 60 financial privacy notices found that they are written at a 3rd-4th year college reading level, instead of the junior high school level that is recommended for materials written for the general public. Consumers will have a hard time understanding the notices because the writing style uses too many complicated sentences and too many uncommon words.

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