Give states the right to protect privacy

Friday, 13 June 2003, 3:39 PM EST

It's round three for California State Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo). Sometime in the next few weeks, her privacy bill, which would give consumers more control over how their private financial information is used and impose tough penalties on banks and credit agencies that share such information without permission, is up for another vote in the state assembly. Proponents are hopeful that three times will be a charm. Governor Gray Davis has signed on, and polls show that 91% of Californians support the measure.

Even if Speier's bill passes, though, her fight could be for naught. Across the country, on Capitol Hill, Congress is holding hearings on whether -- and if so, how -- to update the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the country's first and most important federal privacy law. One of the most contentious questions is whether Congress will extend a complex 1996 amendment that preempts the right of states to pass seven types of consumer-protection laws -- including those that regulate sharing of financial information.

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