ACLU of Illinois Calls on Legislature to Protect Financial Privacy

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
February 23, 2000 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Illinois
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 23, 2000

CHICAGO — Hailing lawmakers’ effort to “protect consumers across Illinois,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today announced a formal endorsement for legislation introduced in the State Senate that would enhance preservation of financial privacy for the average bank customer.

The legislation, SB 1946, sponsored by Senator Carol Ronen (D-Chicago), safeguards personal financial information and fills in gaps in privacy protection resulting from landmark 1999 federal banking legislation.

“The Illinois General Assembly should act directly to protect every single person’s financial privacy, completing the job left incomplete by Congress,” said Edwin C. Yohnka, spokesperson for the organization. “The federal Financial Services Modernization Act leaves consumers in Illinois prey to the narrow interests of financial conglomerates, as well as stalkers, scam artists and other criminals. This legislation will protect consumers across Illinois from becoming victims.”

The Illinois bill follows upon the 1999 landmark federal legislation, the Financial Services Modernization Act, which permits banks and other financial services interests to engage in and offer a range of other businesses, including stock sales, insurance and others.

The Act also allows these financial institutions to share information about their consumers with these affiliate businesses, which in turn can sell the data to the growing number of “insurance brokers.”

Fortunately, the Modernization Act also contained a provision that allowed the individual states to adopt specific legislation that is more protective of individual privacy — precisely the type of protection provided for in the Illinois bill.

Specifically, the legislation contains six steps to protect consumer information and privacy:

  • restrictions on the transfer of personal information, requiring the express consent of customers before a financial institution can share personal information with an affiliate or a third-party;
  • provisions allowing customers the right to see and correct their own files;
  • mandates that financial institutions tell consumers about the information they collect, how they use it, who receives the information, and what steps are taken to protect the information;
  • limitations on the re-use of information, broadly preventing recipients of personal information from selling or passing along this data to a third party;
  • provisions for state enforcement against those who violate the privacy of others; and
  • establishment of a private right of action, allowing customers to sue those who violate their financial privacy.

“In an age where our most personal information is often stored and shared in a digital form, it is critical that we take specific, measured steps to protect and assure individual privacy,” said the ACLU’s Yohnka. “This legislation is a modest, but critical first step to balance the changing face of financial services with the needs of consumers.”

The new legislation also has been endorsed by the Public Interest Resource Group and the Illinois Coalition for Consumer Rights.

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