Ever wonder why you don't have real privacy protection?
Its that old combination of relentless lobbying by billion dollar companies and elected representatives who care more about big business than you. Here's what just happened in California, as the lobbyists kill perhaps the best consumer privacy bill in this country-a bill that could have been a model for laws in your state. Don't let this happen in your state!
FROM THE SACRAMENTO BEE ON-LINE
ASSEMBLY PANEL KILLS PROPOSAL TO PROTECT PRIVACY
By Kevin Yamamura
Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau (Published June 26, 2001) In a confounding end to a bitter battle, an Assembly committee Monday killed for the second time this year privacy-rights legislation opposed by a broad business coalition.
Financial institutions -- including banks, savings-and-loan associations and insurance companies -- would have been required to obtain explicit permission before selling Californians' personal information under the Senate proposal.
Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, the bill's author, said the measure would prevent personal data from being sold and distributed. Opponents from various financial sectors said that they need a "free flow" of information to conduct business.
After a four-hour hearing June 18, it appeared this week that Speier's bill, SB 773, might have enough support to pass the Assembly Business and Finance Committee. After last week's hearing, Speier amended the bill to soften the impact on financial institutions.
Chairman Lou Papan, D-Millbrae, who was criticized last month for blocking a similar Assembly bill, voted in favor of SB 773, giving supporters a brief glimmer of hope.
Yet the bill died by one vote. Two wavering Democrats abstained, including Assemblyman Carl Washington, D-Paramount, who was a co-author of the failed Assembly proposal. And although most failed bills usually have a chance for reconsideration as a matter of courtesy, none of the committee members pushed for a later vote.Speier was furious.
"It was one of the most offensive hearings that I've taken part in during my 13 years in the Legislature because the opponents just exerted so much power," she said.
Papan said reconsideration of the bill was not granted because Monday's Hearing was the second time the measure had come before the committee. Washington said he abstained because he did not know enough about the amendments.
"I think Mr. Washington got confused at the end," said Assemblywoman Carole Migden, D-San Francisco. "I don't think he understood his vote was as pivotal as it was at that moment."
At issue was a current practice in which financial institutions assume they May sell data, such as bank balances and addresses, unless consumers write letters to "opt out."
Speier advocated an "opt in" system that would assume consumers do not want their information distributed unless they explicitly say so.
After a series of discussions last week, Speier agreed to allow her "opt in" provision to apply only when companies sell information to unrelated firms. That meant they would still be able transfer data between affiliates and subsidiaries -- those companies connected by merger or ownership -- unless individuals wrote to opt out.
Yet banks, insurance companies and other institutions said that the current system enables internal transactions necessary to their operations, along with marketing offers and sales that ultimately lower costs for their customers.
And on Monday, they focused heavily on a provision that would levy a minimum $1,000 fine for selling information without permission.
"Unfortunately, it is still very much an open invitation to litigation," said John Dugan, a lawyer for the Financial Services Coordinating Council, which represents a broad financial coalition.
Speier said she would decide whether to continue the fight. "It was quite bizarre," she said. "Residents of California are the big losers because this building succumbs to powerful special interests."
The Bee's Kevin Yamamura can be reached at (916) 326-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.