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PUBLISHED: 1:19 PM on Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Bi-Partisan Effort Protects Consumer Privacy
Recent Consumer Information Theft at ChoicePoint Prompts Bill

JUNEAU - Today four legislators introduced legislation to require that companies notify consumers when their personal or financial information has been stolen. In February ChoicePoint, Inc., a Georgia-based financial database company admitted personal information affecting almost 150,000 consumers had been stolen. Recently, the company admitted it knew of this breach since the fall, and had delayed letting consumers, including 251 Alaskans, know about the breach until last month. The bills have been filed by Sens. Gretchen Guess (D-Anchorage) and Johnny Ellis (D - Anchorage), and Reps. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and John Coghill (R-North Pole).

"Alaskans value their privacy. Companies that profit from trading financial and personal information need to protect that information," the legislators said in their bill sponsor statements.

The Senate and House bills do the following

• Require companies immediately notify consumers when they learn personal or financial information has been stolen.

• Require financial information clearinghouses to allow consumers to place a "security freeze" on their personal information. There are three companies in the country that act as consumer financial information clearinghouses and provide consumer data to banks, credit card, insurance, and other companies. The security freeze provision allows consumers to prevent the clearinghouses from sharing their information. The provision will allow a consumer to regulate who will receive a copy of his or her credit report. Under the security freeze provision the consumer is required to give the credit reporting agency an access code to release his or her report to a company wishing to extend a line of credit.

In addition, Senator Guess will be introducing a comprehensive consumer privacy bill, which includes provisions to protect a consumer's social security number and credit header information and allows for affordable monthly credit monitoring services.


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