NCISS LEGISLATIVE UPDATE from Eddy McClain
The 106th Congress is considering several measures which would have a
and chilling effect on the ability to conduct lawful investigations for
legitimate business purposes.
It is highly likely that the 106th Congress will act on Internet and
legislation for several reasons. Recent publicity over the sale of
on drivers licenses has rekindled some interest; the European Union
to pressure the U.S. negotiators to limit access to personal data; and
Federal Trade Commission is in the process of reviewing compliance with
"voluntary effort." The White House has just appointed a new "privacy
Ohio State law professor Peter Swire. This is a concern because
advocates are reportedly high on him. In Congress, we are seeing a
some of the same legislation that concerned the investigative community
year ----and the legislators are still pushing hard. There is good
be vigilant this year, but NCISS cannot do it alone with meager funds
reluctance on the part of most investigators to join as members and
money for lobbying.
Here are some of the highlights of pending measures:
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) of impeachment fame has introduced HR 97
Privacy Protection Act" , a papparazzi bill which is the mirror image of
infamous"Burton Bill" that CALI just successfully amended. Although the
intent is to limit the papparazzi, the language cries out for
that would not make federal criminals of investigators for doing their
work. CALI was able to insert language that did this for the most part
is still trying for one more amendment) before the bill became law. In
California, the legal community alerted the insurance industry that this
legislation could be a problem. Although the problem was all but
by the amendments, the prospect put a damper on surveillance assignments
we are still trying to educate the carriers. If passed in its present
HR 97 would sound the death knell for surveillance.
Rep. Bruce Vento, (D-MN) has reintroduced HR 313 "Consumer Internet
Act of 1999" which would prohibit disclosure of "personally identifiable
information." This bill did not pass in the last session. The House
Committee will hold hearings on this bill.
HR 367 "Social Security On-Line Privacy Protection Act of 1999 by Rep.
Franks (R-NJ) is very similar to HR 313. And on the subject of social
security, Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL) who is chairman of the Ways and Means
Subcommittee on Social Security announced in February that he will hold
hearings this year to be sure the identifier is not being misused. The
(General Accounting Office) issued their report in February which
many uses to which the SS number of about 227 million individuals is
put. We can expect some effort to put that genie back in the bottle.
HR 220, the Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act of 1999 by Rep. Ron Paul
TX) would essentially end the use of Social Security numbers for I.D.
other than in the SS system.
Last year, Congress came close to enacting the "Financial Information
Protection Act" which would have made it virtually impossible to
obtain customer information from financial institutions, whether
directly or from outside sources. This legislation has been re-
the House in the form of HR 30. The bill is sponsored by the Chairman
House Banking and Financial Services Committee, Jim Leach (D-IA).
Sarbanes, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban
Affairs Committee, has introduced a bill with the same name, but S 187
substantially different than HR 30, adding many restrictions on
institutions. On March 12, 1999, Representative Jim Leach added HR 30 as
amendment to the giant financial services bill, HR 10. This is the same
that happened last session when HR 30 was numbered HR 4321. HR 10 has
been sent to the Commerce Committee. Literally millions of dollars have
spent on lobbying the financial services legislation over the past 20
but it failed to pass. The stickiest hurdle ahead seems to be on the
side which has a different version that the President says he will veto.
Senator Gramm is at the helm and the Senate is divided along party
HR 30, now part of HR 10, makes it a federal crime to obtain financial
information by pretext from either a financial institution or one of its
customers and it is the reaction of Congress to the publicized tactics
information brokers. Mr. Leach issued the following press release:
"For the first time, consumers will be given the right to know
institutions do with their private financial information and the right
their medical records remain private. In addition, for the first time,
federal criminal penalties will be levied against those who use
means to obtain private financial records of Americans." Although NCISS
others have continued to explain the need for a means of locating
hidden by criminals and other miscreants, thus far, there seems little
concern in Congress for the rights of creditors who are also
their eyes, the purpose is not sufficiently noble to justify the use of
subterfuge, even though no one is injured except the criminal or the
In California, State Senator Steve Peace has introduced SB 129, " The
Privacy and Information Act of 1999" which provides that no information
kind could be collected without permission of the subject and only then
informing the subject of their rights and what the information might be
for. Senator Peace sees no need for records, credit or otherwise, and
advocates we adopt the European model to protect privacy. His bill
a "privacy ombudsman" to be appointed who would oversee the collection
information. If such a bill can pass in California, the danger is it
spread to other states or spread without the California amendments as
with the papparazzi legislation. And as soon as the FTC report on
compliance comes out, we can expect Senator Feinstein (D-CA) to
her legislation of last year.
As mentioned in the beginning, the only way NCISS can make a dent in
bills by our lobbying is by having the resources to hire lobbyists to
our grass roots efforts. Every NCISS member must pass the word that
contributions to the NCISS Legislative Fund are critical to our survival
profession. Even $25 will help, if everyone contributes.
Eddy McClain NCISS Legislative Committee
Please send your donations of $25 or more made out to NCISS Legislative
908 21st Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Contributions will be acknowledged in the NCISS Report. If you would
join NCISS, call Sharon Hilke at (800)445-8408 and she will send you an
application. The dues are $125 per year and you will receive the NCISS
report. The current issue contains much more detail about the above
legislative issues and other matters.
A final word:
NCISS is not some outfit of other guys who will cover our backsides in
Washington, even if you don't help out. NCISS is you and I and if you
your shoulder with mine to the wheel, we can accomplish much. And if
afford to send more than $25, please accept my thanks.
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