FTC: Consumer Privacy Comments Concerning Ball & Weed--P974806
BALL & WEED
July 9, 1997
Re: Support of Self Regulation
Dear Mr. Chairman:
In response to the Commission's request for additional comments following the hearing held June 10, 1997, I as a licensed attorney am a regular user of public and non-public records such as criminal records, civil records, credit headers, suits, liens, judgments, real property ownership, grantor/grantee indices, accident/driving histories, alias/assumed name filings, and support the proposition of self regulation.
The data 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 use and need in society. It also allows the public, which does not have the resources to manage all of the problems it is faced with, to defend itself without looking to government for help. All too often the government, both local and federal, has limited its investigative assistance in criminal cases to those suffering economic losses in amounts far beyond the earning or loss capacity of the common individual. As I understand it, this position is due to budget and manpower restraints. The FBI normally will not investigate an economic loss less than $500,000, and in Houston, Texas, the local police rarely deal with economic losses less than $50,000 without extensive lobbying by the victim. Victims are often told their loss is a civil matter whenever there is insurance coverage for the loss. No one seems to realize that the insurance carrier must then investigate and process claims using the very data sources targeted for regulation. We are their only form of assistance once the dollar limit challenge has been issued. In civil matters, there is no governmental agency to assist the public with its needs. With the rise in white-collar crime, fraud of all types, especially in the banking and insurance industries, the public stands an infinitesimal chance of defending itself against the wrongdoers' constantly growing fold. Further, regulation would create additional barriers to use, that today save lives, prevent fraud, and bring families together.
We are required to keep the information confidential and maintain a high degree of accuracy in our reports due to law and the test of the courts and marketplace. To have the targets of our investigations able to browse around in our inquiries and data, or opt to out of databases that are private and public, would be the death of our industry and freedom. It also would enable wrongdoers to gain the upper hand of knowing that employers, businesses, and their potential victims would have no means of defense, detection, or prosecution of their actions. The prevention of wrongdoing and protection against fraud are real tests of the use of this data.
Privacy protection can be managed through our industry's self regulation of uses and distribution. Our industry has stated a willingness and desire to self regulate.
This industry must have the opportunity to self regulate and welcomes the government's help in enforcing the rules, through our efforts and the industry's associations.
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.
Yours very truly,
J. Michael Ezzell
J. MICHAEL EZZELL