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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Junk Mail 101: Congress Must Bite The Bullet and Give Us Back Our Name and Personal Information

We’re losing it folks. The control of our name and personal information is comfortably in the hands of junk mailers, along with companies outside the business that also amass gigantic databases with all your private data. You can still get to it and use it but you are no longer the sole proprietor. You’ve lost control and, although most of you don’t realize it, you’re on the road to disaster. Not every one of you will experience identity theft, suffer your Social Security number floating around precariously, or some other form of the invasion of your privacy, but it will happen to some. And it could be you.

Look at the ChoicePoint and LexisNexis incidents. Almost 500,000 names with scads of personal facts about these individuals and their households, thrown precariously into the forum of identity pilferage. And there were more: Bank of America; DSW/Retail Ventures; HSBC North America/Polo Ralph Lauren. And the list will go on.

So, how do we solve the problem? I’ll tell you how. Congress must pass federal legislation, giving consumers 100% control over the use of their name and personal information. Don’t you think your own privacy is something that should be solidly under your jurisdiction? And don’t you believe you should share in the $4 billion junk mailers make annually from the sale of your name and private data? Your answer should be a resounding YES to both questions.

Once the legislation is passed, are you willing to put out minimum effort to make all this work? Register, so the sale of your name can be documented and the proceeds placed in a fund for safekeeping. Respond to E-mails or telephone calls to confirm legitimate uses of your name. Follow up when prompted that a fraudulent transaction is taking place. Isn’t that simple? Certainly the logistics are more complex, but who could deny the overall value? Hey, you could end up supplementing your Social Security with junk mail.

If you want some excellent information on this subject, I suggest you go to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse site. Click on “Identity Theft” or “Privacy Links & Blogs” to get you started. Then surf around and find the subjects that interest you. There’s a wealth of information here and there isn’t a privacy organization out there that works harder for consumer privacy rights.

There are a few members of Congress currently focused on controlling personal data. They are Senators Charles Schumer of New York; Patrick Leahy of Vermont; Dianne Feinstein of California; Representative Edward Markey from Massachusetts. All Democrats. And, Representative Joe Barton, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a Republican from Texas. Click on their name and send them an e-mail briefly explaining this concept, and the fact that you want your name and personal information back. Tell them I sent you.

You should also visit another site I find an excellent source covering the placing of restraints on junk mail. It is “The Onslaught of the Unsolicited” post on the Notes from a Determined Hermit blog.

Please tell your friends about The Dunning Letter and encourage them to join the grass-roots effort to take back control of our name and private data. I will share all comments—unless the writer tells me otherwise—with the above members of Congress, plus any new Senators or Representatives that indicate interest in this cause. We’ll start our own lobby—I know it’s a dirty word to some—and with enough support, we can get this legislation passed.

Let me have your comments!

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