Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
compiled by Graham Greenleaf and Nigel Waters
For the last two years Victoria’s Liberal Government kept the pressure on its Canberra colleagues by insisting that unless the Federal Privacy Act was amended to provide meaningful privacy protection in the private sector, Victoria would legislate anyway. Victoria’s draft Data Protection Bill 1998 (see 5 PLPR 21 and 136) and Data Protection Bill 1999 (see 5 PLPR 165) were models of a co-regulatory approach which balanced industry participation with serious standards enforcement.
Labor’s victory in the 1999 Victorian elections has put an end to all that. Victoria’s Minister for Regional Development, John Brumby, who is also responsible for IT, has announced that the new government would not legislate for private sector privacy, but that he would introduce a Bill covering the Victorian public sector in the Autumn sitting.
Mr Brumby is reported to have been in favour of continuing the private sector coverage. He does not often seem to be on the winning side in privacy debates. His last intervention into privacy issues was when, as a Federal back-bencher, he was a member of the Joint Select Committee on an Australia Card (1986). Mr Brumby was in favour of the Australia Card, a Federal Labor party initiative.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ordered one of the nation’s biggest credit reporting agencies, Trans Union Corp, to stop selling the sensitive information it gathers on 160 million Americans to direct marketers.
Trans Union is one of three national credit reporting companies, which gather information from banks, mortgage companies, auto dealers and others in order to help companies figure out which consumers are a good credit risk. Exactly who gets to look at that kind of information is laid out in the 30 year old Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FTC has said since the early 1990s that the law limits access to that information to ‘permissible purposes’, such as making decisions about granting credit. The FTC has tried to discourage credit reporting companies from selling the data to direct marketers, and credit reporting giants Equifax and Experian have dropped the practices. Trans Union, however, did not accept this interpretation of the law and continued to sell consumer information to direct marketers through a subsidiary, Performance Data.
In a unanimous opinion issued on 1 March 2000, the FTC concluded that Trans Union violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act by selling information to target marketers that don’t fall under the ‘permissible purposes’ laid out in the Act. Under the ruling, Trans Union will have to ‘cease and desist from distributing or selling consumer reports’ to those not covered by the credit reporting laws.
Source: John Schwartz, Washington Post, 1 March 2000.