Maine's Proposed Financial Privacy Bill Protects Corporations, Not Consumers, ACLU Says

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
March 26, 2001 12:00 am

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PORTLAND, ME -In testimony today before the state legislature, Sally Sutton, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine urged lawmakers to reject a proposed bill that will put Maine’s financial services privacy laws on a par with the federal government’s less restrictive legislation.

“In rushing to pass this bill to conform with federal law,” said Sutton, “Maine ignores the provision in federal law which allows for states to pass greater privacy protections to safeguard the personal financial information of its citizens. The federal law should be used only as a floor, the bare minimum. Maine should go beyond this minimum in protecting its citizens.”

In her testimony, Sutton points out that even with the privacy protections in the federal law, known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, customer data that might originally have been available to their respective banks would be made available to much larger conglomerates and their many subsidiaries. A depositor who provides private information to a bank, she said, may now be at the mercy of insurance agents, stock brokers, or even health care representatives who happen to work for the same firm.

Sutton also pointed out that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act provides few safeguards to prevent intrusive behavior, nor does the law require banks to implement stronger data security measures.

Instead, Sutton said, lawmakers should adopt an alternative bill proposed by the Maine Civil Liberties Union. Key provisions of the model bill include:

· restriction on transfer of personal information

· customer access to their files

· limits on the re-use of information

· public disclosure of privacy policies

· state enforcement against offenders

· the ability of individuals to bring legal action against a financial institution for improper disclosure of personal information.

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