Know the Rules about Your Privacy… Or Lack Thereof

Money Mastery Principle 5 teaches: Know the Rules. In this post, I will illustrate the importance of knowing the rules when it comes to your financial privacy.

Following is a redacted privacy policy that you will notice is pretty much the same as every other privacy statement you have ever come across.  At the top the publisher will reference federal law that gives consumers the right to limit sharing of their personal information, “but not all sharing.”  

What this means is that federal law allows marketing to you at every level unless you know the entity’s particular rules of privacy and take action against them.  Examine this privacy notice and you will see you can only limit three things:

  1. “Our affiliates’ everyday business purposes;
  2. “Our affiliates to market to you; and
  3. “Non-affiliates to market to you.” 

Neither you nor I can maintain the actual privacy of our personal information!  Pretty much anyone can use your Social Security number and income, account balances and payment history, and transaction or loss history and credit scores.   This is horrible!

Okay, but you may say, “but look, they provide a phone number to call and ask to limit your information towards the bottom of the notice.”  My response to that is, “so what?”  Look at all the ways they can still share and sell your information off to so many other marketing organizations!!

Research shows that the vendor can sell your information off for some small fee.  Let’s use 17 cents for each purchase of your private information.  I use 17 cents because if you go to buy qualified information this is a standard rate that’s often used. Run the calculations:  This vendor sells your private information once a day for the entire year.  This means your personal information just paid the vendor $62 that year.  In other words, your personal Social Security number, income and payment history, and credit scores just made them a profit of $62.  Now can you see why you get so much junk mail?  Can you see why you get spammed and marketed all day long?

Can you do anything about junk mail offers?  You cannot stop them.  If you send the offer back as “return mail” and tell them to stop then they know this is a good address and will keep sending marketing materials.

Can you do anything about marketing offers through your email? You can block the sender and even report spam, but surely they are smarter than all that reporting.  All they have to do is move your personal information over to a new URL and start again.

What is the worth of federal law limiting your privacy?  I think it is not worth the paper it is printed on.  Nevertheless, I still make the phone calls and limit what I can and feel you should, too.  There needs to be more discussion and further legislation to prohibit this travesty. While not much can be done at this point, at least knowing the rules will put you in a position to take action and try to fix problems when the opportunity arises. Not knowing the problems prevents you from doing anything about them should the chance ver arise.