Thursday, March 17, 2005

Momentum Turns Toward Privacy Protection

A USACM Technology Policy Weblog post discusses Congressional sentiment following recent news and hearings.

"One thing became crystal clear during this week's hearings involving the leaders of information brokers ChoicePoint and LexisNexis (among others) by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee and the Senate Banking Committee: namely, the intent of policymakers to take action toward regulating the information brokerage industry. Indeed, the question now is less about whether Congress will decide to regulate this industry and more about the nature and scope of such regulation."

"On the House side, full Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) (as reported by the Washington Post) went so far as to call the routine sale of consumers' Social Security numbers without their knowledge or persmission 'just wrong,' while Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) likened the data collections managed by data brokers to a 'treasure trove' of personal financial information. Other highlights from the hearings included the testimony from Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chair Deborah Platt Majoras, ChoicePoint CEO Derek Smith, LexisNexis CEO Kurt Sanford, and EPIC director (and USACM member) Marc Rotenberg."

"As a result of recent revelations of unauthorized personal information disclosures, hacking, and fraud at companies like ChoicePoint, LexisNexis, and Bank of America, information brokers and others who handle sensitive personal information find themselves on the defensive like never before. It is apparent that many in the U.S. -- policymakers included -- were previously unaware of
(1) the kinds and volume of personal information handled and sold by brokers,
(2) the fact that such information is regularly bought and sold,
(3) the seeming ease with which such information can be obtained, and
(4) the fact that information brokers operate largely free of the kinds of government regulations that cover other arguably similar companies

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