Senate ID Theft Hearing Lauds Calif. Privacy Laws

A U.S. Senate subcommittee was told Wednesday that California's innovative privacy laws are successfully protecting Californians by getting consumers, businesses, government agencies and others to change their behaviors in order to better protect personal information and fight identity theft.

Joanne McNabb, Chief of the Department of Consumer Affairs' California Office of Privacy Protection (COPP), told the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security that California's laws have made privacy protection a more important social priority in the state.

"I think the real benefit of California's privacy laws has been their role to prompt improved information-handling practices," said McNabb. "For example, our Social Security number law has resulted in the removal of Social Security numbers from our health plan cards, student ID cards, and other often-used pieces of identification."

McNabb also discussed the benefits of Californians' ability to "freeze" their personal credit reports to prevent unauthorized people from fraudulently opening new lines of credit, and the breach notification law that requires people to be notified if their personally identifiable information has been compromised.

The Subcommittee hearing, "Identity Theft: Innovative Solutions for an Evolving Problem," is part of fact-finding about successful identity theft prevention models as the federal government develops national privacy laws.

In her testimony, McNabb also heralded California's innovative annual identity theft summits that are presented by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Administration. California law and best practices are presented in the form of continuing education workshops for law enforcement, prosecutors, attorneys, businesses, consumers and others.

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