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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OCTOBER 24, 2003
4:37 PM
CONTACT: Consumers Union 
Shelley Curran 415.431.6747
Janell Mayo Duncan 202.462.6262
Senate Next Week Considers Final Piece of Consumer Privacy Trifecta
 
WASHINGTON - October 24 - On the heels of passing the Do Not Call registry and Anti-Spam legislation, the Senate Tuesday will consider the final piece of the consumer-privacy trifecta – the “Do Not Share” amendment, giving consumers the right to say ‘no’ to the sharing of their personal financial information by banks and financial institutions.

The amendment to the "National Consumer Credit Reporting System Improvement Act" (S. 1753), sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, would give consumers control over how their Social Security numbers, bank account balances, and even details of their credit card purchases are shared among companies affiliated with banks and financial institutions. Currently, banks and financial institutions freely share consumers’ private financial information with their affiliates, which can number into the thousands and includes insurance, mortgage, finance and housing companies.

This unrestricted sharing of personal financial information contributes to unwanted marketing, identity theft, fraud and possibly discrimination, as financial institutions can profile an individual’s spending habits and payment histories in order to make discriminatory decisions about credit and insurance services. Consumers ultimately can wind up paying higher rates or be denied insurance, credit and other financial services.

“Congress has shown by passing the Do Not Call registry and anti-spam legislation that it understands Americans’ frustration with the endless invasions into their privacy,” said Shelley Curran, policy analyst with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.

“While marketing calls or spam e-mail are annoying, the unrestricted sharing of consumers’ private financial information is even worse because it deeply impacts consumers’ pocketbooks,” Curran said. “Having to pay higher interest rates, or being denied insurance, due to a financial institution’s secret profile of you can be devastating to many people. Why shouldn’t consumers have the right to control their own financial information that can lead to this type of profiling?”

The “Do Not Share” amendment would give consumers the right to choose whether they want their financial information kept private. The amendment goes beyond language currently in the bill, which just allows consumers to “opt-out” of marketing based on the shared information by financial institutions’ affiliates, but only if they have not previously done business with the bank or financial institution.

“This amendment gives consumers real protections from unwanted marketing, because if these other companies have no access to their information, it will be hard for them to market to them,” Curran said. “We expect the Senate to continue to stand up to banking and financial special interests and give consumers the right to keep their private financial information private.”

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