Home > Past Releases and Reports > Privacilla: Say NO to Affiliate-Sharing Regulation
For Immediate Release
September 23, 2003
Contact: Jim Harper
Privacilla: Say NO to Affiliate-Sharing Regulation
Continuing Push to Regulate Private Sector Whitewashes Government Privacy Erosion, Fails to
Discern True Consumer Preferences
Washington, D.C. — As legislation in the U.S. Senate threatens to burden American businesses with new 'privacy'
regulation, Privacilla.org announced a forthcoming report dispelling myths about information-sharing and privacy. The
soon-to-be issued report will categorically assess the contrast between commercial information-sharing and government
demands for personal information.
"Governments and politicians at every level are ratcheting up their demands for personal information about us. At the
same time, they are pointing an accusing privacy finger at innovative, Information Age companies," said Jim Harper,
Editor of Privacilla.org.
"This is deeply hypocritical. Privacy is being savaged by the very politicians seeking
credit for protecting it."
A draft version of Fair Credit Reporting Act legislation slated for markup in the Senate Banking Committee would
impose new regulations on companies that move customer information among their affiliates. This follows on recent
legislation in California that is even more burdensome.
No parallel movement exists to curtail mandatory government inspection of citizens' financial information,
unconstrained sharing among agencies and levels of government, or routine transfer of citizen data from legislative
and executive offices to political fundraising operations.
The draft Fair Credit legislation would renumber provisions in the law that require credit bureaus to report personal
information about Americans to the FBI and other government agencies based only on written requests.
"What were the drafters of this bill thinking?" Harper asked. "'Let's move this FBI snooping provision
aside so that we can do something on privacy.'? It's really too ironic."
The federal Bank Secrecy Act likewise denies Americans financial privacy by requiring banks to report information
on their customers for collection in a government database.
The best available evidence reveals that consumers do not rate commercial information sharing highly as a privacy
concern. The federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act gave consumers power to opt out of much information
sharing by the companies they trust with their finances. Billions of notices were mailed, reaching most consumers
multiple times. Response rates were trivial.
"This was the largest and most expensive consumer survey ever, testing whether American consumers care about
information-sharing by companies they trust. The results demonstrated relatively high levels of either indifference
"Gramm-Leach-Bliley falsified the talk-is-cheap surveys and political posturing on financial privacy. This
information-sharing regulation did not make a difference. If our politicians can't even learn by
multi-billion-dollar trial-and-error, we really are in trouble."
Carrying on just a little too long, Harper continued: "It's an article of faith among
anti-commercial 'privacy' activists that commercial information sharing is a top consumer concern. But the real
preferences of real consumers include a mix of privacy and trust, low prices, good customer
service, and tailored products and services. Businesses are constantly striving to find the right mix. We should
let that process continue."
In a contrast with artificial information-sharing regulation, evidence also reveals that consumers feel strongly about the nuisance of
intrusive marketing and other harmful behavior. The Federal Trade Commission's popular "Do-Not-Call" list is part of an
agenda focused on preventing actual harms to consumers.
"The issue here is marketing, not privacy. The Federal Trade Commission is showing that there is no need for the
economic monkey-wrenching involved with information-sharing regulation. Their focus is where it should be: on real
annoyances and harms."
The Privacilla report, slated for issue in the next few weeks, will survey the interplay between the Fair Credit
Reporting Act, new legislation recently passed in California, court decisions under the FCRA, and other key factors
in privacy debate such as government information sharing and anti-privacy law and regulation like the Bank Secrecy
Privacilla.org (http://www.privacilla.org) is an innovative Web site that captures
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