Privacy Bill Passes Senate, Heads to Assembly

From a Times Staff Writer

A bill that would require Californians to give consent before their private financial information is sold, swapped or otherwise shared with third-party businesses was passed by the Senate on Monday and sent to a cloudy future in the Assembly.

But the bill's author, Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), said she believed that the powerful financial services industry, which gutted a similar bill last year in the Assembly, seems willing this time to reach a settlement or face a potentially more severe initiative on the 2004 ballot.

"The industry wants to cut a deal this year," she said shortly after the Senate voted 23 to 11 approval of her plan (SB 1).

In floor debate, Speier said polls show that protection of personal financial privacy is a high-priority issue with Californians, who demand the "right to be left alone."

Democrats cast all the favorable votes. Republicans voted no, although several GOP members refused to vote.

Speier's bill would make it illegal for a financial institution to sell, trade or otherwise disclose a consumer's private information to any unrelated third-party business for marketing or other purposes.

In cases where a business is affiliated with the principal company, confidential financial data could continue to be shared without the consumer's consent, but companies would have to stop the practice if the individual requested it.

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