Jul 012009
 July 1, 2009  Posted by  Featured News, Laws, U.S.

I was grumbling at a privacy conference about my bank’s privacy policy and that it seemed impossible to get a bank to truly delete records and take back your data from affiliates if you no longer had an account. Why should we be contacted in perpetuity if we are no longer customers? In response to my grumbling, a well-known privacy expert shrugged dismissively and commented that all banks do that. He was correct, but that doesn’t make it right. And because most of us have been too complacent, banks in most states are now encroaching on our privacy even more. Have you seen your most updated bank policy?

This morning, I received an email from a regular reader of PogoWasRight.org, who is appalled at the way his bank changed their policies. Here’s the relevant text from the bank’s newly revised policy that went into effect on June 1:


By providing us with a telephone number for a cellular phone or other wireless device, you are expressly consenting to receiving communications – including but not limited to prerecorded or artifical voice message calls, text messages, and calls made by an automatic telephone dialing system – from us and our affiliates and agents at that number. This express consent applies to each such telephone number that you provide to us now or in the future and permits such calls regardless of their purpose. Calls and messages may incur access fees from your cellular provider.

That’s pretty egregious, isn’t it? And yet, if this type of thing is, indeed, industry-wide, where does it leave consumers who are not living in California, where customers do have some right to limit sharing of information?

I wonder what would happen if you told your bank that you changed your phone number and declined to give them the new number. Would they close your account? Or what if when you went to open your account, you had lots of lovely identification information but told them that you do not own a phone? Would they refuse to open an account for you?

And what if we do not give them our number directly but they obtain it through Caller ID? Can they then use that number to contact us and also give it to their affiliates? Do we need to use Caller ID blocking to prevent them from seeing our cellphone number if we should call them?

I don’t necessarily mind my bank being able to contact me if there’s some problem with my account, and there are times when I would actually appreciate a call. It’s these unwanted calls and calls from affiliates that need to be reined in. In today’s world, many people do not own landlines and cell phones are their only phones. To have a number that might be jealously guarded given out to “affiliates” and to have to agree to incur unwanted phone charges so that they can advertise is just…. violative of our privacy.

Who is looking out for our privacy? And do we need Congress to make the California Financial Information Privacy Act the basis for federal law?

  One Response to “Banks: All your cellphone are belong to us”

  1. Made a visit to my branch bank to inquiry about the paragraph inserted into my last statement regarding “updates” which were effective “immediately”. The “personal banker” had no knowledge of the notice on my statement, the “update”, or anything else. I asked her for the “updated booklet” (as advised in the paragraph on my account statement. She handed me the “Deposit Account Agreement Terms” booklet dated 2007 and said that was the only one she was aware of.

    She went into the Branch Manager’s office and returned after a 5 minute meeting with him. She again advised me she was not aware of the notice, and informed me that the Branch had no “new” booklets, and she did not have any information to consult.

    I suggested she “google” “Cellular Phone Contact Policy” (my primary concern). She quickly found the excerpt I was inquiring about. She read it out-loud 3 times while I interpreted the impact of each sentence for her. After looking toward the window of the Branch Manager’s office for “help”,(he was watching us the entire time, but continued to do absolutely nothing…I again offered her a suggestion. (contact Corp Hdqtrs for help).

    About 10 minutes later, she was connected to someone. It was obvious this person was also not aware of the issue. At my suggestion, she proceeded to read the text of the “Cellular Phone Contact Policy” to him from the monitor screen. She began relaying the “solutions” to me that were being fed to her over the phone. Each one being an attempt to convince me that it was nothing “significantly affecting” me.

    -it is basically the same “terms”
    -they would have to “get some clarification”
    -they would have to find the notice and read it.
    -I was probably covered in the standard opt-out I had submitted (over a year or two ago)
    -They “could just make a note to skip calling my number”
    -etc. etc.

    I advised them on each comment that they were not interpreting anything in a legal context or specifically stated in the “updated” notice, which overrides anything stated in previous booklets. I then asked her if he was an attorney or legal counsel…”NO”. I then asked if they were willing to provide an “opt-out” for us both to sign…”NO”. I then asked if they would provide written documentation of their agreement to “skip” my name, or any of the issues they had just verbalized to me…”NO”.

    After a series of amateur and futile attempts to brush the whole issue off, the phone conversation ended…and she advised me that she was “just “a peon in the corporate machine”.

    I concluded my 30 minute exercise in nonsense by thanking her for taking the time to “try”, but I would be closing my accounts the next day. I had no other option to other than to protect my personal and financial data and privacy…on my own, since it was clear they were not, or seemingly planned on doing so.

    Although I am confident that they will not follow up with me, I can assure you that I will follow through with my notice to them of closing my accounts tomorrow.

    Well, apparently, the banking industry ego was unaffected by the economic “hardship”. I am just “a customer”…they have plenty of em’ left…

    (that is what Microsoft thought too, before the Vista trainwreck…lol


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