Privacy Advocates Call for Increased Protection of Consumer Data


The recent security breaches at choice point and Bank of America are
just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to the risk of identity
theft now faced by all consumers. Privacy advocates say these recent
debacles highlight the need for more government regulation of how
consumer data is collected and distributed.

"The information they have should be theirs only for the purpose of
doing business with you. It should not become their property to sell or
trade as they see fit," Richard Holober of the Consumer Federation of California told
KCBS’s Larry Chiaroni. "We believe that the companies that gather,
collect, and sell or trade this information should be held to extremely
rigorous standards."

Holober said consumers need to have the right to inspect and correct
any data collected by a data aggregator, and the companies themselves
need to scrutinize all of their clients very closely.

"They need to make sure that they carefully screen businesses that want
to purchase our data, do oversight on those businesses to make sure
that they are legitimate businesses," Holober said.

"The burden is on you to try and clean up the mess after identity theft
occurs. We think that consumers should have the ability to stop
identity theft before it happens."

Gail Hillebrand, senior attorney with the West Coast Consumers Union,
said the laws regulating data aggregators should resemble those that
control credit bureaus because what companies like Choice Point sell
are basically the same. The only difference is how the data gets

"It’s kind of like a credit report except you don’t have the same
rights you have with respect to a credit report," Hillebrand said.
"These companies get information both from public records, court
records, in some state’s drivers licenses records. If you’ve ever been
in bankruptcy or been divorced they have a record about you. They also
buy information from credit bureaus."

Hillebrand said she expects legislation regulating the consumer data
industry later this year. Currently there are no federal laws
controlling how these companies gather and disseminate confidential
consumer information.

Holober said the problem of identity theft could be greatly diminished
if consumers actually had legal control of their financial information.

"If consumers can freeze the distribution of their data, it becomes very difficult for identity theft to occur."