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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Congress Keeps Getting It Wrong...and So Do You

You are probably unaware of, and maybe even unconcerned with the fact that the House of Representatives is about to vote on a piece of identity theft legislation that is an insult to the citizens of this country. But why should you care? You’ve let it get this far without protest, so, like the saying goes, you reap what you sow.

HR 3997, The Financial Data Protection Act of 2005, will take away most of the rights you currently have, placing absolute control over your name and personal data in the hands of the same culprits who keep losing it. Like the 540,000 New Yorkers’ names, addresses, and Social Security numbers contained on a piece of computer hardware—didn’t say if it was a laptop—that is now missing since Monday of this week. Story on

But why should you care. It hasn’t affected you. Yet. The House leadership will most likely pass a bill that allows companies like ChoicePoint, Bank of America, Sharper Image, or just any junk mail or non-junk mail facility that holds your private information, to notify you only if they decide you are at risk. In other words, after the fact. If you are willing to take that, then, maybe the means justify the end.

Washington state Attorney General, Rob McKenna, said it best, when commenting in the article, “’Protection’ Act Would Strip Consumers of Credit Safeguards.” He said: It’s like telling someone you can’t put a deadbolt on your front door until after you’ve been burglarized . The same article documents how the finance and credit industries have donated over $12 million to political campaigns, and spent nearly $30 million on lobbying.

Susanna Montezemolo, Policy Analyst with Consumers Union, and Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, both oppose the legislation. Montezemolo says, “Congress should be helping consumers prevent identity theft, not making things worse.” Paraphrased, Mierzwinski adds that what the states have given—like the California law that caught ChoicePoint—Congress wants to take away, “…with this industry-approved bill that won’t prevent data breaches…”

Montezemolo also makes a point I have been blogging about for over a year now. She states: “Consumers are the greatest protectors of their own personal information.” Therefore, why not pass federal legislation giving them control over their names and personal data, and, while we’re at it, pay them when it is sold? Read more of their article at:

What everyone should know is that HR 3997 will amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The Act’s coverage, of course, does not fully protect consumers, but it is all we have from lawmakers who are either afraid, or too inept to serve notice on government agencies and the business community that the public, also, has rights.

And this will never happen unless consumers stand up for these rights, and demand that Congress do the right thing when it comes to the identity crisis. Tell them you want control over your name and private information. Encourage friends and family to do the same.

Write, E-mail or telephone your Congressional representatives and tell them what you think of this concept of controlling your name and personal data, and, being paid when it is sold. Contacting the House of Representatives. Contacting the Senate.

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