California Financial Privacy Law Partially Invalidated

by  Richard Chapo, Esq., Staff Writer

The 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals has dealt a blow to privacy advocates by invalidating a California privacy law. In litigation brought by the American Bankers Association and others, the appellate court overruled the finding of a trial judge that the California law could stand. Instead, the appellate justices found the law to be pre-empted in part by the federal 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.

When a state law conflicts with a federal one, the federal law takes precedent. For instance, the Supreme Court has ruled abortion to be constitutionally protected. No state may pass anti-abortion laws and have them enforced.

The question at issue in the California law was a section giving California residents the right to block financial institutions from selling their private information to third parties.

A San Francisco trial judge, Morrison C. England, Jr., had ruled the section conflicted with provisions of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, but was not pre-empted because the federal law allowed for stricter state laws. The 9th Circuit court disagreed.

The case will be returned to Judge Morrison in the next 60 days. He will then determine whether any other provisions dealing with the sale of personal financial information are still enforceable. Given the appellate ruling, it is difficult to imagine a ruling upholding this section of the California law.

Notwithstanding these developments, approximately seventy percent of the California privacy law is still enforceable. Financial institution still must get permission from customers prior to selling or sharing your information with third parties.

You should be concerned about financial institutions selling your private information to others. With all the incidents of identity theft in the news, chances are you will eventually become a target. Banks should be focusing on protecting their customers, not making a buck off private information.

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