For Immediate Release
Edmund Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director
EPIC-Hosted Privacy News Event at the National Press Club
Statement of Edmund Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director US PIRG
the long run, one of the most important privacy actions taken by the Obama
administration may be one that hardly mentions privacy, if at all.
"The Obama proposal to
establish a Consumer Financial Protection Agency takes the giant step of
proposing that federal consumer banking law return to its roots as a floor or a
minimum standard of protection, not a ceiling, reinstating the long-eviscerated
rights of the states to enact stronger consumer banking and credit laws.
"If we can defend this
proposal against the phalanx of corporate lobbyists against it, it is a
"The states have
always been privacy champions while Congress and federal agencies have
routinely befriended corporate privacy opponents, on issues ranging from
medical privacy to financial privacy to identity theft, where preemption has
been the rule, not the exception.
"Yet, where we have
blocked preemption, we have had great success. As just one example, in 2003,
Congress failed to provide adequate identity theft protection as part of its
FACT Act amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. For once, advocates were
able to convince Congress to keep a narrow window open for further state
actions, against tremendous industry pressure to totally preempt all future
state actions in credit reporting. Since 2003, fully 46 states and DC have
joined California in enacting comprehensive, largely outstanding security
freeze protections against identity theft. Unlike industry propaganda claims,
these laws have converged toward one law, not created 46 balkanized laws.
Compliance is easy.
"So long as federal
laws are strong enough, there is no need for the states to act in any
balkanized way, and they have not and will not. That's not rational. But if
federal laws fail to do the job, we need to protect the right of the states as
first responders-- their rights to act should never be taken off the board by
the demands of corporate privacy invaders for weak, uniform and preemptive
federal laws. That's not rational.
"Congress has just
returned for another semester. We urge it reject the demands of special
interests and remember that the states have always been the privacy and
consumer protection leaders. U.S. PIRG looks forward to ranking the Congress on
its upcoming actions regarding this critical Obama proposal to allow states to
enact stronger state privacy and consumer laws. We also anticipate
Congressional preemption fights over security breach, Internet, medical and
other privacy legislation. For now, we give the Obama administration an A on
its critical pro-privacy, pro-state authority to enact stronger laws proposal.
We're watching the Congress."
U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.