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This article, and the others listed above, are originals written by Rolando Pasquali. Many were published in legal journals and in newspapers of general circulation. Each article is based upon general principles of California Law in existence at the time that it was written. The law constantly changes. Therefore the articles, including this one, may contain information which is out of date. Also, even a small difference in facts can change how the law applies to any situation. No information in this article or anywhere on this website constitutes legal advice. These articles do not create an attorney-client relationship between you and this office. If you need legal advice, contact this office or an attorney in your area

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Privacy & Technology Law

by Rolando Pasquali

Unbeknownst to most people, their personal information is currently “shared” between businesses. Shared information can be transmitted between non-affiliated enterprises and their ad agencies. A techno-leap from the horse-and-buggy days of selling mailing lists, digital cable now allows marketers to “target” individuals with advertising. In the not too distant future, a person buying a washer will return home to find a slew of detergent ads on their television. Commercials will become so “customized” that their next door neighbor will see entirely different ads. Federal law allows non-affiliated businesses to “share” customers’ personal information. Consumers can control information sharing if they understand both the technology and laws affecting it.

The Technology

          The June 23, 2003 issue of Forbes Magazine contains a profile of Visible World, Inc., a New York company founded in February 2000. The company has developed a method of assembling customized digital modules “instantaneously.” Using these modules, the company’s product “IntelliSpot” allows it to customize television advertising so that viewers in the same city can see different advertising simultaneously. Forbes writes: “Last year about 1.7 million Los Angeles residents got a cable TV ad pitching a $47 box of chocolate-covered strawberries from 1-800-Flowers. Some of their neighbors got a different offer: a stuffed bear with honey candy for $20. The experiment in target marketing was a success, generating double the order rate of the standard one-pitch-fits-all cable ad.”

          Visible World’s website claims that it can now reach specific households with “individually targeted messaging.”

Federal Law & Information Sharing

          In 1999, Congress passed The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.This law allowed insurance, banking, and securities corporations to enter each other’s markets. In addition, after notifying their customers, financial institutions could disclose “nonpublic personal information” about individuals to “non-affiliated” 3 rd parties so long as:

·         The person didn’t “opt out” of information sharing, and

·         State law didn’t prohibit it.

          Corporate “affiliates” who notified customers that sharing would occur were unbridled. Individuals were left powerless to stop information sharing between affiliated companies unless prohibited by state law.

High Noon in the Legislature – Gunslingers at the Ready

          A bill that would have tightened Gramm-Leach-Bliley’s application in California was defeated on June 17, 2003 in the Assembly Banking Committee. That summer, the Pasquali Law Office published its newsletter, drawing Newsletter readers’ attention to the impending showdown between bill sponsors and California ’s banking interests. Bill supporters were claiming, before the ink was wet on the Banking Committee’s defeat, that they already had over “half” the signatures needed to place the measure on the California ballot. Coffee smellers those bankers are, and SB-1, The Financial Information Privacy Act, was passed in June 2004. That law, found in California Financial Code sections 4050-4060 gives individuals the ability to control the disclosure of certain “nonpublic personal information.” Financial institutions that want to share information with third parties and unrelated companies must obtain “affirmative consent” of consumers before sharing. California consumers can also prevent the sharing of financial information among affiliated companies through an opt-out mechanism. California consumers encountering further problems can contact the state Office of Privacy Protection at (866) 785-9663.

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