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NEWS RELEASE
Jun 09, 2003


CONTACT: Jerry Flanagan - 415-633-1320 or Jamie Court 310-392-0522 x327

Privacy Bill Amended Friday To Include Written Consent Standard

Assembly Banking Committee Delays Key Hearing Social Security Numbers of Opponents Bought
The author of California financial privacy legislation announced late Friday that her bill, supported by Governor Davis, would be amended to require prior written consent before an individuals' financial information is shared with telemarketers and others outside the company. Then, the Assembly Banking Committee delayed today's scheduled hearing -- a key showdown between privacy advocates and the banking industry.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) announced today it has bought online the social security numbers of key players in the debate -- including Assembly Banking Committee members and the CEOs of the banks leading the opposition to the bill -- in order to dramatize how vulnerable every individual's private information is.

"Written consent is an important improvement on this bill and holds the banks to a higher level of accountability," said Jamie Court, FTCR executive director. "Privacy opponents must recognize that if they don't respect the individual's privacy, they cannot expect their own to be protected."

FTCR noted that SB 1 still had problems the group hoped would be addressed in the coming days, but that the bill deserved a fair hearing and that the addition of a written prior consent standard would close a major loophole in the legislation. Consumer advocates said that they would continue to follow the debate and work to ensure that the bill received a fair hearing.

Among the remaining issues:
  • As amended, SB 1pre-empts stronger city and county ordinances protecting residents' financial privacy, including those in Daly City, San Francisco City and County, and San Mateo County. Specifically, the local ordinances provide for less sharing among affiliates, explicit definition of protected information (including social security numbers), more consumer control over with whom information is shared, as well as mandatory minimum and progressively higher fines for repeat violators. SB 1 must be strengthened or the pre-emption clause should be removed.
  • Allowances for organizations and businesses to access a consumer's purchasing history.
  • Allowances for marketers to retain a consumer's private information.
  • Exemptions for retailers and real estate companies.
  • Allowances to financial institutions to offer discounts to induce sharing of information.

"As a result of the Davis/Speier compromise announced last week, the privacy bill will pre-empt stronger Bay Area initiatives," said Jerry Flanagan, a consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. "Local control over private information should not be overridden with weaker state standards."

Jamie Court, author of the new book Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom And What You Can Do About It (Tarcher/Putnam) seeks to put the word "corporateering" -- when corporations put their gain over the individual's and society's -- into the popular vocabulary. The book discusses how corporations cultural power has grown to threaten personal freedoms such as the right to privacy, legal recourse and personal security.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is a non-profit and non-partisan consumer advocacy organization. For more information, visit us on the web at www.consumerwatchdog.org

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