2006-03-03 / Community

Pheffer Unveils ID Theft Bills

Pictured,(l-r): Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer, Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, Assemblyman David  McDonough. Pictured,(l-r): Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer, Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, Assemblyman David McDonough. Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee Chair Audrey I. Pheffer and Government Operations Committee Chair RoAnn Destito today unveiled a wide-ranging identity theft prevention legislative package, a series of bills aimed at protecting New York State residents from privacy invasions that could result in financial loss, damaged credit ratings and discrimination.

At a Capitol news conference, Pheffer and Destito explained how the proliferation of electronic commerce and communications has become so pervasive and essential to the lives of New Yorkers that it is critical that the state strengthen its laws substantially to protect its citizens from becoming victimized by identity-theft criminals. Joining the legislators at the news conference were representatives of organizations supporting the initiatives.

The legislative package introduced by Pheffer and Destito would enact new measures to protect personal information provided to the state as a matter of public record, more effectively restrict the disclosure of Social Security numbers and require businesses to be more responsible with the use and disposal of personal information.

“We must take every available step to protect New York residents from identity theft,” said Pheffer (D-Queens). “This comprehensive legislative package contains several new initiatives aimed at reducing unauthorized access to consumers’ personal information and at providing assistance to those who have become victims of identity theft.”

“While our society has benefited greatly from the use of e-mails, Internet shopping and search engines, unfortunately, so have identity theft criminals who have exploited the availability and ease with which personal information can be acquired if the appropriate safeguards are not in place. That’s why these bills are necessary to assure New Yorkers that their personal information is secure. No longer will residents have to worry that their information, provided to the state as part of an official public record, will end up on the Internet,” said Destito (D-Utica).

The identity theft prevention package includes measures that would restrict businesses from posting personal identifying information that is not necessary or relevant to completing a public record (A.7670-B, Pheffer); require state agencies to redact or only provide essential personal information when making a document available to the public (A.10075, Destito); and prohibit agencies from using Social Security numbers as a means of identifying employees unless required to by law (A.10074, Destito).

To establish a more effective and active effort by the state against privacy invasion, the privacy protection initiative would institute an Identity Theft Prevention and Mitigation Unit within the Consumer Protection Board, create an Identity Security Task Force, and require law-enforcement agencies to take identity-theft complaints and provide reports on those incidents (A. 10077, Pheffer).

The package also provides New Yorkers with further protections by prohibiting businesses and others from making an individual’s Social Security number available to the general public, restricting businesses from printing an individuals number on mailings or other communications, banning businesses from using an individual’s number to access services, products or benefits, and requiring that only necessary employees have access to number information (A. 10076, Pheffer).

In addition, the legislation would require businesses to exercise responsible care in the disposal of personal-identifying information, including shredding information before discarding; destroying personal information contained in the record before it is thrown away; and modifying a record to make personal information unreadable or to ensure that no unauthorized person will have access to personal information contained in the record (A.8456-A, Pheffer).

Pheffer and Destito noted that this legislative package was developed following the hearing their communities conducted on September 15, 2005, which received testimony from officials of the United State Civil Service Department and the state Consumer Protection Board. Private business interests representing the banking, insurance, marketing and retail industries also participated.

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