October 8, 1996
The Honorable Robert Pitofsky
Federal Trade Commission
6th and Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20580
Dear Chairman Pitofsky:
We are writing to request that the Federal Trade Commission conduct a study of possible violations of consumer privacy rights by companies that operate computer data bases.
In recent weeks, a number [of] major news organizations, including USA Today and the Washington Post, have featured protests by Internet users over the non- consensual sale and usage of consumers' personal data by companies that operate computer data bases. The companies are allegedly obtaining and compiling personal background data on individual citizens into electronic transmitted databases for for sales to private entities or individuals, including attorneys, banks and credit card companies, without the consent of the targeted individuals. The data bases reportedly include social security numbers, drivers licences numbers and other identifying information, credit files, and medical records.
We have received calls and letters from constituents who are greatly disturbed about the compilation, sale, and usage of these data-bases They, as well as consumers in general, are concerned about the potential intrusion upon, and violation of, individual privacy rights. There also is concern about the potential abusive and unlawful usage of the data.
In light of these concerns, we request the Commission investigate the compilation, sale, and usage of electronically transmitted data bases that include identifiable personal information of private citizens without their knowledge. The probe should address, but not be limited to, the following questions and issues:
(1). Is the non-consensual compilation, sale, and usage of data-base a violation of private citizens civil rights?
(2). Are the data-bases subject to unlawful usage? Do they create an undue potential for fraud on consumers?
(3). Are the compilation, sale and usage of consumers' personal data consistent with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and federal telemarketing regulations?
(4). Are there ways consumers can prevent data- based service companies from including their personal background information in commercial data bases absent their content?
We believe a study of this matter should begin immediately. We would like you to submit a report on your study within six months of your findings and conclusions for such legislative action as the Commission deems appropriate. Please respond as to the Commission's final declaration regarding this request.
Thank you for your assistance.
/sig /sig Senator Bryan Senator Pressler /sig Senator Hollings