Protection of Privacy Rights No. 238A
The personal privacy of every American today is threatened as never before. Private corporations are accumulating detailed information about every one of us. The emerging electronic marketplace has accelerated the assault on privacy and is grossly under-regulated. Information is gathered, sold, and exchanged without the informed consent of its subjects and could be used for purposes that run the gamut from marketing to political blackmail. Most seriously, the ever-increasing risk of database theft threatens the well-being and security of all Americans.
ADA believes the Executive Branch and the Congress must take broad action to control the collection and abuse of personal information. Citizens must have the ability to protect themselves against misuse of information. They must be informed in advance of the potential uses of information they provide about themselves. They must have remedies for information abuse and misuse.
Private corporations are gathering personal information including medical records, bank account data, credit history, and buying preferences. Health and life insurers pool information about individual consumers. Corporations with "self insurance" health programs have access to employee medical data, opening the door to unmonitored employment discrimination, based on medical concerns - even though prohibited by law.
Credit card data can provide a detailed picture of the preferences, day-to-day movements and buying habits of card users. This data is often sold and shared without the knowledge of the credit card holder. In some cases, criminals have accessed the data and stolen the identity of subscribers.
Internet users are particularly open to invasion of privacy. The web sites they access search for files to determine what other sites have been visited, and frequently require personal information as a condition of access. Children who use the net are special targets. The information gathered may be stored in insecure and widely accessible databases. If the information is erroneous or out of date, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to correct. Victims of identity theft and credit reporting errors spend years and thousands of dollars fighting for corrections.
Many national databases are run by for-profit businesses intent upon increasing their income by selling and distributing the information. This is done without the consent of the person involved.
To address these issues, ADA proposes the following actions:
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