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CDT Policy Post 2.33 - FTC Recommends Changes to Protect Personal Info

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     The Center for Democracy and Technology  /____/     Volume 2, Number 33
        A briefing on public policy issues affecting civil liberties online
   CDT POLICY POST Volume 2, Number 33                    September 25, 1996
   CONTENTS: (1) FTC Recommends Changes to Protect Personal Information;
                 Recommendations Follow Netizen Complaints about P-Trak
             (2) How to Remove Your Name From P-Trak
             (3) How to Subscribe/Unsubscribe to the Policy Post list
             (4) About CDT, contacting us
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  On Friday, September 20, 1996, the Federal Trade Commission recommended
  that Congress take action to protect the privacy of personal information by
  amending the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  The FTC's recommendations --
  included in a letter to Sen. Richard Bryan (D-NV) -- come on the heels of
  consumer outrage being expressed over the recently-released online database,
  P-Trak, offered by the information service Lexis-Nexis.
  P-Trak provides personal information on millions of people across the
  country.  For a fee of $85 per search, Lexis-Nexis subscribers can obtain
  personal information about an individual that can include name, current and
  prior addresses, maiden names, birth month and year, and current telephone
  number.  In June, Lexis-Nexis stopped displaying Social Security numbers in
  response to complaints from consumers and privacy advocates about the
  availability of that information.  However, P-Trak users can still search the
  database by Social Security number.
  A primary source for this personal information is credit reports from credit
  bureaus, such as Equifax, Experian (formerly TRW), and TransUnion.  The
  information is found in the header, or top, of a person's credit report.
  Under the current FCRA, credit bureaus may release and sell the type of
  information contained in the P-Trak database without limitation.  The FTC
  proposes amending the FCRA to prohibit the disclosure of certain personal
  information by expanding the definition of "consumer report" to include "any
  identifying information other than the consumer's name, generational
  designation, current address and telephone number."
  Currently most people are unaware of the vast amount of information that is
  generated, captured, used and disclosed during daily activities -- from the
  membership card scanned in at the grocery store checkout, which neatly
  tallies our purchases and spending habits, to departments of motor
  vehicles which make a profit selling our personal information for
  marketing and other purposes.  As the public learns of the collection and
  use of personal information by the private sector -- information that is
  increasingly made available in electronic format -- pressure to address
  privacy concerns will grow.
  As Congress moves to adjourn for the session at the end of the week, the
  Senate is currently considering amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  CDT believes adoption of the FTC's recommendations would be an important
  first step in acknowledging that individuals have a privacy interest in
  personal information such as social security numbers, prior addresses, and
  maiden names.
  To preserve privacy in the digital age, CDT believes that the core privacy
  principles of notice and individual control over personal information must
  inform both the design of the information infrastructure and public policy
  decisions.  CDT supports Congressional approval of the FTC's recommendations
  in response to the growing public concern over the loss of privacy.
  For information about this and other privacy issues, including the text of
  the FTC response to Sen. Bryan and the FTC press release, links to press
  clips about P-Trak, previous FTC hearings regarding online privacy, and more,
  visit CDT's Privacy Issues Page:
  Those who are interested in removing their personal information from the
  database can contact Lexis-Nexis one of the following ways:
            Fax: 513-865-1930
         E-mail: p-trak@prod.lexis-nexis.com
     Snail Mail: Lexis-Nexis
                 ATTN: P-TRAK
                 P.O. Box 933
                 Dayton, OH 45401
  Please provide your full name and complete address when submitting your
  request.  NOTE: Lexis-Nexis is under no legal obligation to remove your
  name from its database!
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  The Center for Democracy and Technology is a non-profit public interest
  organization based in Washington, DC. The Center's mission is to develop
  and advocate public policies that advance democratic values and
  constitutional civil liberties in new computer and communications
  Contacting us:
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  End Policy Post 2.33                                            9/25/96