Financial Privacy Initiative Press Conference

Statement by Richard Holober, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California:

Californians are deeply concerned about their financial privacy and overwhelmingly support strong privacy protection.

In January the Consumer Federation of California Education Foundation
commissioned a statewide poll of frequent voters. After hearing a
lengthy series of arguments against the initiative, 91 percent of
voters surveyed favored a proposition that would require a financial
institution to receive permission before it could sell a customer’s
personal information. Support was overwhelming across the political and
income spectrum. Industry arguments against privacy had no noticeable
impact on voters.

Sixty seven percent said financial privacy is a major or important concern.

For consumers, this is about business practices that offend our
sense of decency. Californians believe that the sharing of personal
information by business is way out of control. About ninety percent of
voters agreed with these statements:

  • It is time consumers got some control over their families’ private information;
  • The sharing of personal information without consent is an invasion of our privacy; and
  • It is just plain wrong to sell our private information without our permission.

Voters want strict controls over information sharing. Voters soundly
reject the industry argument that information sharing is good because
it allows consumers to take advantage of special product offers that
consumers might want. By better than a three to one margin, voters
would prohibit financial institutions from sharing personal information
with their own subsidiaries without permission.

The poll confirms that Californians want what consumer groups
advocate: strong, straightforward protection that lets the consumer
decide whether it is ok to share private information. Voters will not
tolerate a law that contains loopholes or exceptions and there are no
loopholes in this initiative. The initiative establishes a simple rule:
personal information sharing within a family of companies or with other
businesses or persons is unlawful unless the customer gives his or her
consent first. A financial corporation cannot deny a service to or
discriminate against a consumer who says no to information sharing.

Our initiative puts consumers ‘ not banks or insurance
companies ‘ in control of the private details of our financial lives.
It is in keeping with Californians’ core values. We are confident that
voters will see through the deceptive hundred million dollar “Vote No”
campaign that we fully expect from the banks and insurance companies;
and will vote in huge numbers for the initiative.

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(The poll of 426 California frequent voters was conducted in Mid
January 2003, by Fingerhut Granados Opinion Research, a Washington, DC
opinion research firm. Vic Fingerhut is a leading national public
opinion consultant. Fingerhut has polled extensively on California
issues, including several state ballot measures. The margin of error is
plus or minus five percent).