State Must Act To Protect Privacy

Attorney General Spitzer today commended the legislative leaders on passing a key privacy measure, but he said that more should be done to protect New York consumers against authorized disclosures of confidential data, especially over the Internet.

Spitzer applauded the passage of a bill allowing consumers to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls. This proposal was part of a comprehensive privacy agenda advanced by the Attorney General in January.

"The approval of the "Do Not Call" telemarketing bill is a good first step in protecting personal privacy, but we need to do much more, " Spitzer said.

Spitzer's privacy agenda includes a bill that would restrict the ability of so-called information brokers to compile and sell reports on New York consumers. This bill has been hailed by privacy experts who note that information about consumers' spending habits, finances and lifestyles is readily available from giant databases on the Internet.

In addition to the information broker bill, Spitzer has proposed legislation that would curtail "junk" e-mail, strengthen penalties against identity theft, prevent financial institutions from disclosing confidential information about customers without prior consent, and provide consumers with the ability to review the accuracy of their credit reports.

Separately, Spitzer is working with the Business Council of New York to encourage companies to develop and adhere to sound privacy policies.

Under the telemarketing legislation approved at the close of the legislative session, the NYS Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection will maintain a list of individuals who do not want to be called by telemarketers. It is estimated that telemarketers place some 18 million calls each day, creating what many believe to be a serious invasion of privacy. Consumers who want to protect their privacy should call or write the PSC and request that their names be placed on the "Do Not Call" list.

Spitzer urged lawmakers to make the passage of additional privacy protections a top priority in the next legislative session.