NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

On-line Privacy Becomes Hot Political Issue

January 19, 2000

Responding to growing voter concerns, Republican and Democratic politicians alike are making the protection of personal privacy in the technology age a priority issue. A number of state legislatures are already considering legislation to guard against identity theft and more soon will, observers report.

  • Last week, Maryland, Minnesota and Utah lawmakers proposed comprehensive privacy packages -- and New York's Attorney General has announced he will join the movement next week.
  • At least a dozen states are trying to stop banks from sharing financial information with affiliates -- requiring that customers give permission first.
  • More than 20 states plan to consider how to protect patients' health records that are stored on computers.
  • Several states are trying to prevent Internet companies from selling personal information obtained by following customers' electronic moves.

States are also trying to regulate electronic junk mail. Virginia, Washington and California already do so.

Many proposed laws would establish "do not call lists" that would allow families to avoid calls around dinnertime from telemarketers.

Sources: Richard Wolf, "States Move to Protect Online Privacy," and "Privacy Is a Priority With Voters, State Legislators Say," both in USA Today, January 19, 2000.


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