Mar 232011
 March 23, 2011  Posted by  Business

Privacy practices can be a tool in a labor or political dispute. A press release from Wisconsin that I just read seems designed to try to harm a bank’s reputation by alleging deceptive privacy practices.  Allegations that the bank worked to elect a governor who has opposed collective bargaining seem almost secondary to the allegations of deceptive privacy practices, but the collective bargaining issue seems to be the real motivation behind the release.

There is plenty that can be improved in terms of banks’ privacy policies, as consumers really have very little choice to go elsewhere when all banks do pretty much the same thing in terms of their privacy policies.  But as you read the press release below, ask yourself: is what Marshall & Ilsely accused of doing really any different than what pretty much all banks are doing? Have they really done anything unusual or particularly egregious, or is this really more a  systemic problem of financial sector privacy policies really not being clear enough about how our data are used or allowing us more opt-out in the absence of actual opt-in?

Marshall & Ilsely (M&I) Bank’s “privacy policy” actually gives M&I the right to sell or give away some of the most intimate details of a customer’s banking life including information identifying the customer; their address; assets and income; employment history, their medical information, information on accounts; transactions on those accounts; and their use of the M&I website.

Customers may assume that M&I Bank will use this private data merely for the bank’s own internal use, but instead that information can be given or sold to an array of interests that include credit bureaus; government agencies, including the IRS; any other financial institutions including M&I BANK companies; “third parties” who perform services for M&I Bank and “others” to the extent permitted by law.

Besides this intrusion on a customer’s right to privacy, executives at M&I Bank have also worked to ensure the election of politicians such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker who have made it their priority to strip the long held right of public employees to collectively bargain.

The Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA) believes accountability and transparency is a requirement of corporate citizenship, and thus seeks to shine a light on this bank’s practices.  Members of the community will be joining SMWIA members at branch locations in Wisconsin, Nevada, Arizona, Missouri, Minnesota, Florida, Illinois, and Indiana to notify M&I customers about this important privacy issue at 12 noon (local time) on Wednesday the 23rd of March.  A list of these locations can be found here.  The SMWIA urges past and current depositors at M&I Bank to call 1-888-450-3185 to have their private data removed from any of the bank’s marketing efforts.  Customers are also urged to for additional information.

The SMWIA, an international labor union with membership in the AFL-CIO and the Canadian Labour Congress, provides policy direction and program support on behalf of its membership in maintaining the union’s jurisdiction over various types of sheet metal and related work in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico through 151 local unions.  SMWIA members provide skilled services to the sheet metal and air conditioning industry, other metal-related manufacturing and service operations, and the transportation industry in both freight/commuter railroads and shipyards.

  3 Responses to “Wisconsin labor union raises privacy issues at Marshall and Ilsely Bank as political strategy”

  1. Well, I read the website linked to the press release and have read the info thoroughly. I don’t know if other banks do this or not but personally I am NOT in favor of my bank spreading my intimate financial or MEDICAL information around anywhere. The IRS? I’ll be calling my bank to revoke any such privileges. Given the outrageous fees they charge (even for debit cards) they don’t need to make any more money off of me!!

  2. So some good has come out of the press release if it makes more people aware to check their bank’s privacy policy. Thanks for sharing your reaction.

  3. Well I see what this is all about, and I too am not in favor of having my info spread around for someone elses profit. I will be following up and opting out but it should be the other way around, they should be asking permission, and not in some small print shuffled through in a stack of paperwork. I will also check around and see if another bank has a different policy and switch just for principles sake.

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