'60 Minutes II' Glosses Over Privacy Issue

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While a "60 Minutes II" segment on financial privacy that aired Wednesday night didn't cover any new ground in the opt-in/opt-out privacy debate, it also failed to include any discussion of legislation already in place to protect consumers.

During the 15-minute piece, correspondent Scott Pelley spoke to one direct marketing data provider, a lobbyist for financial institutions and two pro-opt-in California politicians.

InfoUSA CEO Vin Gupta was interviewed and filmed at the firm's Omaha, NE, headquarters. He told Pelley that his company has a database of 200 million people that includes information such as name, address, telephone number, dwelling type and home value. Gupta even showed Pelley his own data file, to which the correspondent said, "I'm not sure this is information I would really want anyone to know."

A few minutes later, the segment clarified that much of that data comes from public records.

The main focus of the piece was Mike Nevin, a county supervisor in San Mateo County, CA, which passed an ordinance requiring that banks in the county get permission before sharing their customers' personal data. Nevin named five other counties in California with similar ordinances.

The other featured politician was state Sen. Jackie Speier, co-author of a state bill that would mandate opt-in consent for the sharing of financial data. Though it was defeated in the California Assembly in September, Speier has reintroduced it this year.

The only person to argue that information sharing benefits consumers was lobbyist Phil Anderson.

However, no one in the segment mentioned the existing federal legislation -- the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Modernization Act of 1999, which took effect July 1, 2001. Under GLB, financial institutions must provide clear disclosure of their privacy policies regarding the sharing of nonpublic personal information with affiliates and third parties, and give annual notice to consumers and a chance to opt out of sharing nonpublic personal information with nonaffiliated third parties.

Toward the end of the segment, footage shot at the Direct Marketing Association's fall show in San Francisco was featured. The narration called it a telemarketing conference and said the DM industry is huge with sales of $270 billion a year for the financial services industry and its affiliated companies.

Footage was mostly of the show floor and booths of companies, similar to what was shown in 1999 when a "60 Minutes" crew was on the floor of the Toronto conference for a piece that focused on the DM industry's activities online.

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