The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said today that it believed the 600,000 Californians who signed a ballot initiative on financial privacy should have their day at the polls.
“If this proposal was not half a loaf, the industry wouldn’t swallow it. We believe people deserve the full loaf they thought they were getting with their signature,” said FTCR’s Jerry Flanagan.
FTCR was responding to a legislative compromise announced today by Governor Davis that would deliver fewer protections than the ballot initiative but more than is currently available under federal law.
Under the ballot initiative, third parties and all affiliates of financial institutions would have to obtain written consent from an individual before sharing their private financial information.
Under the legislative compromise, companies cannot, without permission, sell private information to unaffiliated third parties — such as Internet sites that sell social security numbers and other private information. Consumers will be allowed to opt out of information sharing among a limited number of companies affiliated with financial institutions through a form developed by a Bush Administration agency. However, under the compromise, corporations can share or sell private information among affiliated companies in the same industry-area — such as banking — with no consumer option to protect private financial information. Citibank, for example, has 1700 corporate affiliates, though they are not all in the same industry.
Last night, FTCR wrote to Governor Davis that “Any new law should be at least as protective as the ballot initiative by requiring a clear written ‘opt-in’ from consumers before banks and other financial institutions sell private financial information to affiliates or third party businesses. The compromise bill you are considering must not contain any exemptions that allow the largest banks to share personal information without consent’ All Californians deserve the right to vote to protect their privacy if the Legislature cannot deliver a comparable safeguard.”