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Published: December 2011
Occupy Wall Street movement highlights another harm from big banks: loss of privacy
Consumer Action signed onto a letter supporting Occupy Wall Street's demand for corporate accountability and transparency, particularly with regard to privacy violations by big banks.
Below is the full text of the letter:
We are writing in support of Occupy Wall Street because the Mega-Banks for years have systematically invaded the privacy of millions of Americans, exploited their personal financial information without anyone’s consent and used their institutional power to block the 99 percent from having the legally enforceable privacy rights they deserve.
We also are writing to offer our expertise for teach-in for OWS members who want to gain access to and correct their personal files – whether they be held by the N.Y.P.D., the F.B.I. or credit reporting agencies.
Yes, “privacy” is something the 99 percent want and deserve, but the 1% prefers the status quo because their control and exploitation of personal information both enhances profits and their control over the population.
Big Banks’ manipulation and profiteering in Americans’ financial data played a key role in the sub-prime financial meltdown.
In 1999, when Congress passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB) allowing Mega-Banks to remove the “Firewalls” created by the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, serious concerns were raised about their ability to compile detailed dossiers on consumers that could be used to manipulate them into buying or using questionable products or services. We advocated strong privacy safeguards that would force Mega-Banks to obtain individuals’ consent before using or selling their personal data.
But the powerful bank lobbies prevented real protection. The resulting watered-down provisions left them free to use and abuse personal data to sell shoddy products and services. Mega-banks also took advantage of loopholes to exploit credit report data with the same result. All of this helped bring about the sub-prime financial crisis from which our nation is still reeling.
OWS members should know that they still have important legal rights regarding their personal files, whether they are held by N.Y.P.D., FBI or credit reporting agencies. They can demand any type of records from any government agency under Federal or State Freedom of Information Act laws. Please let us know if you are interested in teach-ins on these issues.
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