For Immediate Release:
J.C. Pierce 516-982-9134
COALITION FILES PETITION WITH FTC ON PRIVACY STATEMENTS:
"We want clarity, not deliberate confusion."
- -- Hundreds of National Groups Support Petition
- -- Consumers can STILL "Opt-Out"--here's how
- -- Petitioners Available for Interviews
- -- Read full petition at PrivacyRightsNow.com
- -- Ralph Nader quote
WHICH STATEMENT IS "CLEAR and CONSPICUOUS"?
"If you prefer that we do not disclose nonpublic personal information about you to nonaffiliated third parties, you may opt out of those disclosures; that is, you may direct us not to make those disclosures (other than disclosures permitted by law)."
"WE ARE ALLOWED TO DISCLOSE YOUR PRIVATE INFORMATION TO OTHER COMPANIES UNLESS YOU TELL US NOT TO. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO PREVENT US FROM DISCLOSING YOUR PRIVATE INFORMATION TO CERTAIN COMPANIES."
IF YOU LIKE THE SECOND STATEMENT, you'll love the petition hand-delivered today, July 26th, by leading consumer groups representing over 290 nonpartisan organizations and consumer leaders.
OUR VERY DIVERSE GROUP--ranging from Ralph Nader, the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union to JunkBusters and The Consumer Project on Technology--is asking the FTC to require companies to use simple, easily understandable language in future "opt-out" messages mailed to consumers.
BACKGROUND: COMPANIES ARE REQUIRED to notify consumers before sharing certain information. But, as millions of consumers know, those notifications were fatally flawed:
"MOST OF THESE NOTICES ARE SO BAD that even people with a lot of legal training have trouble reading them," says David Vladeck of Public Citizen's Litigation Group, drafter of our petition.
THAT'S IF THE CONSUMER CAN EVEN READ THE TYPE. Many notices were printed in 8 point type--like one of our examples above.
WHAT WAS THE IMPACT OF THIS OBVIOUS ATTEMPT to discourage consumers from opting out of information sharing? Less than one half of one percent of all consumers responded to the Opt-out notices, according to the American Bankers Association, and 63 percent of consumers did not read any privacy notices. Did you?
IN CONTRAST, OVER 145,000 CONSUMERS IN TEN DAYS downloaded our "Opt-Out" form letter. You can see that letter at PrivacyRightsNow.com
OUR PETITION OUTLINES PROBLEMS WITH THE CURRENT NOTICES:
-- Many notices are--obviously--not "clear and conspicuous," as required by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
-- Many notices obviously do not "call attention to the nature and significance of the information contained..." as required by the FTC.
-- The notices were "written by lawyers trained in the art of obfuscation, not by mass communication experts trained to express ideas clearly. Notices bury their already opaque interpretations of the law and company practices beneath self-serving...commitments to protecting privacy."
-- Opting-Out has been deliberately designed to be difficult. For instance, Chevron Credit Bank only offers a telephone number for opting out between the hours of 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. East Coast time only on business days. Could they find a more inconvenient time slot?
-- Opt-out explanations invariably appear at the end of the notices. Therefore, before a consumer can learn how to opt out, he or she must "trudge through up to ten pages of fine print."
OUR PETITION ASKS FOR UNAMBIGUOUS AND CLEAR REMEDIES: Our petition asks that consumers have meaningful opportunities to exercise their opt-out rights.
1. We request that the FTC require a statement and format like this one at the beginning of each opt-out notice:
WE ARE ALLOWED TO DISCLOSE YOUR PRIVATE INFORMATION TO OTHER COMPANIES UNLESS YOU TELL US NOT TO. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO PREVENT US FROM DISCLOSING YOUR PRIVATE INFORMATION TO CERTAIN COMPANIES.
BUT IF YOU DO NOT RESPOND WITHIN 30 DAYS, WE MAY BEGIN SHARING YOUR INFORMATION. YOU WILL STILL HAVE THE RIGHT TO TELL US TO STOP AT ANY TIME.
BUT ONCE WE HAVE SHARED INFORMATION WITH OTHER COMPANIES, WE CANNOT GET IT BACK FROM THEM OR STOP THEM FROM USING IT.
2. We request that all notices include a detachable postcard, an email address, and a toll-free number for opting out. We believe the wording concerning the actual opt-out procedure should be uniform.
3. We suggest that companies should be required to clearly and simply define key words such as "AFFILIATE" and NON-AFFILIATE" and "PRIVATE INFORMATION."
KEY INFORMATION FOR YOUR AUDIENCE:
1. THE PETITIONERS STRONGLY BELIEVE IMPROVING CURRENT OPT-OUT PROCEDURES IS ONLY A STOPGAP MEASURE. Real privacy protection will only come when "Opt-In" legislation is passed.
Opt-in programs mean a company must automatically assume their customers do not want their information shared. The current Opt Out program assumes all customers want their information shared. But "Until Congress passes real privacy protections, including Opt-In, Federal regulators need to do a better job of enforcing Opt-Out," says Ed Mierzwinski of U.S. Public Interest Research Group."
2. ITS NOT TOO LATE FOR CONSUMERS TO OPT-OUT OF INFORMATION SHARING. Though the law required all companies to send their opt-out notices by July 1, consumers CAN OPT OUT AT ANY TIME. Our web site, PrivacyRightsNow.com, provides a standard opt-out letter which can be sent to any company.
3. Consumers can encourage the FTC and their representatives to help us in this fight for their privacy. Our web site, PrivacyRightsNow.com provides several "take action" steps.
4. Our web site has numerous and valuable links to key nonprofit privacy web sites. You might want to visit PrivacyRightsNow.com" yourself.
RALPH NADER, one of our petitioners, sums up the message most of us hope our Petition sends to the regulators: "It is imperative that the federal financial regulatory authorities act immediately to prevent the erosion of privacy by chicanery."
ANY QUESTIONS? We'll be glad to help. You can call or email me directly, or you can call any of the following key representatives of our sponsoring groups:
J.C. PIERCE, COORDINATOR FOR THIS PRESS RELEASE
Remar Sutton 404-229-5094
Jake Lewis (Ralph Nader’s office) 202-387-8030
Electronic Privacy Information Center 202-483-1140
Travis Plunkett, CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA 202-387-6121
David Vladeck, Public Citizen, 202-588-1000
Beth Givens, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse 619-298-3396