Governors hear privacy debate
- By Jill Rosen
- Jul 12, 2000
Governors heard both sides of the thorny privacy issue Monday at the National
Governors' Association's annual meeting in State College, Pa.
Because some governors soon could be considering privacy policies for
state government electronic transactions, NGA's Committee on Economic Development
and Commerce invited a corporate attorney and a privacy advocate to share
their views. Their views sounded similar at first, but it didn't take long
for the gap to show.
The corporate attorney, Kate Sullivan, general counsel and chief of
staff for Citigroup, spoke about the extensive actions that her company
has taken to comply with Gramm-Leach-Bliley Title V. That law requires financial
services companies to disclose what personal information they collect about
customers and who can see that information.
Sullivan said Citigroup notified all customers in writing and offered
everyone the opportunity to "opt out" of allowing their information to be
used by third parties or for marketing purposes.
"Having a policy if you hide it is like not having a policy at all,"
she told the governors.
Jason Catlett, founder of a privacy advocacy firm called Junkbusters
Corp., urged the policy-makers to realize that lobbyists will be pushing
hard for states to be lax on privacy requirements.
"If you insist that the privacy rights of your citizens be protected,
you'll surely prevail," Catlett said. "If you stand up for privacy, the
entire nation will owe you their gratitude."
Although both speakers seemed to endorse privacy, Sullivan said her
company would refrain from using customers' information only if they specifically
requested the information not be used. Catlett said companies should ask
people's permission in the first place.
South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges, the committee chairman, characterized
the dilemma by saying people "don't want their lives turned into the "Truman
Show,'" referring to the movie in which a man's entire life was broadcast
as a TV show.
Connecticut Gov. John Rowland called privacy concerns "the most serious
to the Internet's vitality." He acknowledged that state leaders face tough
decisions about privacy that include considering legislation's impact on
the cost of Internet use, determining who should do the regulating and deciding
whose job it is to protect people's information.
"As states evolve from paper dinosaurs into digital democracies, people
need faith that their government is protecting their digital information,"