Privacy fight — Where’s Arnold?

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The San Francisco Chronicle

California’s two U.S. senators are engaged in a determined but uphill battle to save the state’s new financial privacy law from federal pre-emption.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said by phone Tuesday that she and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will insist that they be given time for debate — and an opportunity for amendment — when the reauthorization of the Fair Credit Reporting Act comes up for a vote, possibly this week.

Feinstein was harshly critical of the way financial-industry CEOs agreed to accept privacy legislation in Sacramento earlier this year, then “came back here to wipe it out. It’s diabolical in my view.”

At stake is a measure, SB1 by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, that would require banks, insurance companies and brokerages to get customer permission before selling account balances, spending profiles and other personal information to telemarketers and other third parties. It would also give consumers a chance to block certain information sharing among affiliated

But much of the Speier bill’s restrictions on affiliates would be eliminated by the U.S. Senate bill, which would prohibit such state rules.

Feinstein acknowledged that her amendment — which effectively uses the California law as a new national standard — is unlikely to pass without a late surge of public pressure, similar to the outcry that made the difference in Sacramento.

Which raises the question: Why isn’t Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, who campaigned as a champion of the people’s interest over special interests, going to bat to preserve Californians’ individual privacy rights? He certainly has the bully pulpit to instantly elevate the national profile of the Feinstein-Boxer amendment. But Schwarzenegger has yet to take a position on SB1, or the
threat to undermine it in Congress.

It’s time for the governor-elect to get to work for the people’s interest.

You can send your opinion to Schwarzenegger through a link at
Or call his transition office at (916) 321-9300.

Consumer Watchdog
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