In the United States and
the European Union, privacy is
quickly becoming the
number one issue for consumers. There is good reason for the consumer's
fears, as never before in the history of man has the potential for
personal information been so high.
Look at this this way - practically anyone can get on the internet
out all kinds of personal data about another person without much
Once the information has been released, it is like Pandora's box
really hard to unrelease (or close the lid).
Why are the people so excited about this issue? Well, if your medical
information is released to the wrong people you could find it difficult
get insurance. Your driving record could make it not only difficult
car insurance, but you might even be turned down for a job! Your
history is available in one form or another to just about anyone
- and this
can determine your standard of living and employment for years.
messages sent to newsgroups can be recovered long after the fact
Add onto this the very real issues of identity theft (in which people
basically pretend they are you in order to abuse your good credit),
stalking and so on, and you've got some real potential for problems.
The politicians in the European Union and the United States of America
actually agree with their constituents that privacy is an issue
be addressed. However, the two massive powers have taken vastly
directions - so different, in fact, that some sort of collision
going to happen in the not so distant future.
It seems kind of backwards to me, but in the United States if you
protect your privacy you must opt-out. This came about from a law
Financial Services Modernization Act (also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley
Act, or GLB). It required financial institutions, including insurance
companies and brokerage firms, to mail you their privacy notices
and to be
in compliance with federal law. The deadline for those institutions
to do so
was July 1st, 2001. Of course, you can opt-out at any time - the
was for the companies, not normal consumers like you and me.
This means you, the consumer, must figure out every company with
are doing business. You've got to determine, based upon their privacy
policies, contracts and agreements, how to opt-out. Then you've
got to call,
write or email every single one of these companies to inform them
do not wish them to sell or use your data.
The European Union, on the other hand, did it right. All companies
you if it's okay to use your information before they use it.
One of the problems that will occur is there will be some conflict
based companies that want to do business in the European Union must
EU privacy requirements. This is actually a trade war waiting to
that's another story ...
Anyway, what does this mean to you? Well, if you live in the United
and you value your privacy, you need to do some things.
Visit the Federal Trade Commission page on privacy - This will help
started on your long journey.
Gather information - For a couple of months at least, keep all of
credit card summaries, utility bills, phone bills and anything else
place that might have information about you. Keep all of this information
a folder, because you will need it.
Start calling, writing and emailing - As you go through your information,
you will have to figure out how to opt-out. Sometimes it's a simple
a click box on a web site. Sometimes you have to call a phone number
an actual snail-mail letter. Keep good records of whom you have
You should receive an acknowledgement in the mail from each company.
Don't forget the credit bureaus - You can call one phone number
from all four of the large credit bureaus. This number is 1-888-567-8688,
and the procedure is very simple. Be sure and listen to the whole
menu, though, before you make your choice. One option only works
years, and a second (option 3) is forever.
Write your congressmen - This is the silliest scheme for privacy
that could possibly have been put together. It's so difficult to
that most people will not bother - and they should take the time.
and write your congressmen and let them know how you feel - and
congressmen don't read emails very often but they do read snail-mail
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at
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