The Privacy War is Over -- and You LOST : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Privacy Blitz Is Coming - Your Last Chance At Protection Is Now By Brock N. Meeks 4-6-1

WASHINGTON - The privacy war is over - you lost. Now it's all about survival. In the next few months tens of thousands of businesses will send consumers billions of so-called "privacy notices." Disguised as garden-variety junk mail, these notices required by a new law hold the keys to stopping the wholesale flood of your personal information onto the free market.

SOME PEOPLE WILL get 20 or more of these privacy notices as required by the newly enacted Gramm-Leech-Bliley Act, according to financial law expert Rick Fischer, who testified before a congressional privacy hearing this week.

Fischer's written testimony outlined the broad reach of the Act, noting that it mandates that banks, retailers issuing credit cards, money transmitters, check cashers, mortgage brokers, real-estate settlement services, appraisers, tax preparations services and online companies that offer aggregation, funds transfer or payment services send out notices to all their customers to inform them about the types of personal information being collected, how it's being used and to whom it will be sold.

Your mission, should you actually be able to tell a privacy notice from the weekly dry cleaning discount offer, is to decipher all the legalese printed in really small type and allsquishedtogetherlikethismakingitevenhardertoread.

Having completed that task, you then have to follow exacting instructions on how to properly inform the company that you don t want them to sell every scrap of your personal information, which they ve been collecting from you for the last three decades.

The key phrase to look for among these piles of paragraphs is "opt out." Because unless you proactively "opt out" or "willingly choose to not participate," these companies can sell anything and everything they know about you unless you tell them not to. "Financial and medical records, what you buy, where you shop, your genetic code, are all exposed in a privacy free-for all," Frank Torres, legislative counsel for Consumers Union, told a congressional hearing on privacy recently. "Complete strangers can, for a price, have access to your most intimate secrets."

it's ALL SPIT IN THE WIND Now, corporate America is wearing this privacy information blitz like a badge of honor. Its representatives have already testified before Congress about the great and detailed steps they ve taken to ensure that consumers get the all the information they are entitled, by law, to have. Corporate America is spitting in our collective face and trying to sell us on the fact that it's as fresh as an April rain shower.

"Failure to pay attention to these privacy notices may result in sensitive financial data being sold to other companies for marketing and other purposes," warns Tena Friery, research director for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. But the barrage of paper and the vagueness of the language make it darn near impossible for anyone to easily make sense of what is taking place. "The notices may actually be telling consumers we can sell information about your income, debt level, payment history, bankruptcies, hospitalizations and much more unless you tell us we can't, " Friery said.

The brutal truth about the fallout of the privacy war is that no part of our lives is left untouched by data collection activities. And it's not that all data collection efforts are inherently evil some are downright convenient. But convenience is no excuse for the wholesale rape and pillage of personal information by corporate America.

There should be a basic right of data ownership in the U.S. and there simply isn't. Privacy laws have been built over a century bit-by-bit, stitched together in a crazy quilt fabric of confusing laws. "This means that consumers have lost control over the ability to be left alone," Torres told Congress. "Often, consumers have no choice in whether or not information is collected and no choice in how it is used. Today, any information provided by a consumer for one reason, such as getting a loan at a bank, can be used for any other purposes with virtually no restrictions."

So you and I are left with having to buck the increasing trend of information collection and dissemination. We have to cover our own butts because no one else will. Trouble is, even when we make the effort, there are few strong privacy laws in our collective quiver.

For all the promise of the "opt-out" provision now codified by Gramm-Leech-Bliley Act, there are enough loopholes in the law put there by industry lobbyists when the bill was being written that the protections are almost useless.

"Unfortunately these opt-outs, in reality, will do little or nothing to prevent the sharing of your information with others," Torres says. The main reason is: Although you can opt out of having a particular company sell your information to an outside company, any other company within the corporate family can scarf up your data and you have no say in the matter.

Torres believes that Gramm-Leech-Bliley should be scraped and rewritten, this time with the consumer, not corporate greed, as the guiding principle. I would advocate for a right, in law, that puts consumers 100 percent in charge of their data and that such a right is automatically deferred unless proactively waived, a kind of Miranda Rights for Data.

And there should be laws that make companies keep the privacy promises they make. Such a law would have stopped eBay from its arrogant reversal regarding the privacy of its member s personal information. ebay, which once promised never to sell your information to outsiders, now says that if the company or one of its subsidiaries is bought out or merged with another company, you can kiss all those earlier promises goodbye. "Should such a combination occur, you should expect that eBay would share some or all of your information in order to continue to provide the service," the new eBay privacy policy states.

That kind of capitulation isn't right; there ought to be a law against it. There isn't. The privacy war is over & now it's all about survival.

-- meg davis (, April 07, 2001


So, always, always, always, give false information, transpose numbers in in your SS#, lie about everything. It's for your own good.

Hackers that destroy databases are heros.

-- Tom Flook (, April 08, 2001.

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