FTC: Consumer Privacy Comments Concerning Cynthia Erdelyi Investigations, CPI, CIP--P974806
INVESTIGATIONS, CPI, CIP
July 7, 1997
Secretary, Federal Trade Commission
RE: Support of Self-Regulation
Dear Mr. Secretary,
In response to the Commission's request for additional comments following the hearing held June 10, 1997, I as a licensed private investigator am a regular user of public and non-public records (such as credit headers) and support the proposition of self regulation.
The data that we regularly access and use in our reports to clients has a beneficial use and need in society. It is important that a free flow of information be available to support commerce and our judicial system. It also allows the public, who does not have the resources to manage all of the problems they are faced with to defend itself without looking to government for help. Further regulation would create additional barriers to us that today save lives, prevent fraud and bring families together.
I cannot help but to interject a few personal examples of the way access to this information has helped many of my clients in their legitimate needs when the police cannot or will not assist them. After all other sources of information were exhausted, I used the information from a credit header to reunite a mother with the child she adopted out some 30 years ago. In a missing child case, I was able to track the whereabouts of a critical witness who was present when the child disappeared through credit header information. Although this mother has still not been reunited with her child, she may be able to seek recourse in the civil courts against the facility where the child was housed at the time of his disappearance. She at least now has a chance to seek justice for the loss of her child in the civil courts. When hired or assigned to work
on criminal defense cases, I have been able to locate critical alibi and material witnesses through the use of this information. In several instances, my clients were able to prove their innocence and be freed from false charges. If these clients had been your sons or daughters, I am confident you would wish that all information available to assist in their defense could be obtained. If more public records are closed down, this will be impossible. The police will go no further than just the information needed to file a case and no more. It is up to the defense to leave no stone unturned. And lastly, I have been involved in locating missing classmates for a 30th class reunion. Information I gleaned from presently available information led to the locations of several classmates who had never attended a reunion in 30 years. The joy in their voices to be located when I contacted them certainly outweighed any possible privacy concerns. All information I used to locate them is currently available through public records and credit headers.
We are required to keep the information confidential and maintain a high degree of accuracy in our reports due to law and the rest of the courts and market place. To have the targets of our investigations able to browse around in our inquiries and data, or opt out of the databases that are private and public would be the death of our industry, the clients we serve and freedom. The prevention of wrong doing and fraud are real tests of the use of data.
Privacy protection can be managed through our industries self regulation of uses and distribution. Our industry has stated a willingness and desire to self-regulate. I already routinely counsel potential clients on how not to violate privacy when conducting an investigation. This industry must have the opportunity to self regulate and welcomes the governments help in enforcing the rules through the industrys efforts. I ask that you support self regulation and work with the industry to successfully bring about policies and procedures that we can all live with in a free society. Please allow me to continue to help my clients who so desperately need my sources of public information.