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Home > Past Releases and Reports > Privacilla: Say NO to Affiliate-Sharing Regulation


For Immediate Release
September 23, 2003

Contact: Jim Harper

(202) 546-3701

http://www.privacilla.org

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 or satisfaction."

"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 Act.

Privacilla.org (http://www.privacilla.org) is an innovative Web site that captures "privacy" as a public policy issue. Privacilla has been described as a "privacy policy portal" and an "online think-tank."

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