The World Privacy Forum submitted comments to the Securities and Exchange Commission today requesting that the SEC do more to protect the privacy of consumers’ asset information. Asset information — the financial information attached to mortgages, car loans, and other consumer borrowing activities– is very attractive to the consumer data industry. We would be happier with the current SEC proposal if it were practical to keep all sensitive asset-level data under the direct control of the Commission or, perhaps, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Direct involvement by a federal agency, while no guarantee of a better outcome for data subjects, would provide better and clearer accountability for maintenance of the data as well as the possibility of meaningful enforcement.
Many people have told us that they think opting out is confusing. We agree. Opting out can range from the not-too-difficult (the FTC’s Do Not Call list is a fairly simple opt out) to the challenging (the National Advertising Initiative opt out can be tricky). Our hope is that this list will clarify which opt out does what, and how to go about opting out.
Arizona School of Law — Pam Dixon participated as a discussant and contributor to the Arizona School of Law’s private workshop on the topic of the future of privacy. Key areas of discussion included the European Union’s Right to be Forgotten proposal, consent and health privacy, and Do Not Track.
Congressional testimony — WPF executive director Pam Dixon testified at a joint subcommittee hearing focused on privacy and the collection and use of online and offline consumer information. Dixon’s testimony focused on the new “modern permanent record” and how it is used and created. Dixon said “The merging of offline and online data is creating highly personalized, granular profiles of consumers that affect consumers’ opportunities in the marketplace and in their lives. Consumers are largely unaware of these profiles and their consequences, and they have insufficient legal rights to change things even if they did know.” The testimony explored concrete examples of problematic consumer profiling activities.
The World Privacy Forum filed comments today urging the U.S. Treasury Department to obtain consumers’ consent before checking their credit reports. Consumers who participate in the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) — an Obama administration program created to help consumers renegotiate their mortgages so they can keep their homes — must allow the Federal Government to check their credit reports without first obtaining consent. This procedure sets a negative precedent, and is at odds with consumer expectations of privacy. The Treasury gave itself this power in an obscure set of “Routine Uses” in a Privacy Act notice published along with the proposed system of records for the program. The World Privacy Forum has objected to this, and has filed detailed comments with the Treasury about the lack of consumer consent. The public comment period on this program is open until September 4, 2009.