GAO Says States’ Privacy Efforts Slow And Patchy

By

Washington

State insurance authorities are behind most of the federal regulators in establishing standards for safeguarding consumer privacy under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the General Accounting Office says.

The report says that while most states have adopted regulations or enacted legislation based on a model regulation developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, there is no guaranty that all states will consistently implement the regulation.

Each state, GAO says, must independently take action to implement the regulation. During this period, GAO says, the security and confidentiality of insurance customer information and records may not be subject to a consistent level of legal protection.

GAO also notes that there is considerable variation in the privacy standards adopted by the states. Although most have adopted the NAIC model developed in 2000, GAO says, several states have retained versions of an earlier model, developed in 1982, which they believe provides greater protections.

In addition, GAO says, some states have modified or retained existing provisions of their laws and regulations that also provide consumers with greater protections than those required by GLB.

GAO notes that in response to a draft of its report, NAIC, Kansas City, Mo., says that states have worked hard to meet the privacy requirements of GLB and have accomplished a great deal.

According to NAIC, GAO says, this activity has occurred with respect to a controversial and politically-charged issue. Moreover, unlike federal agencies with direct authority from Congress, state regulators had to look for authority from their individual state legislatures, NAIC told GAO.

Nonetheless, NAIC told GAO, every state except Alaska has privacy protections in place that meet or exceed the standards established by Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

Robbie Meyer, senior counsel with the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, notes that with respect to state activities involving GLB, ACLI strongly urged the states to adopt rules in a way that would establish operation uniformity with the federal rules.

However, she says, ACLI is disappointed that at least two states, Vermont and New Mexico, have deviated significantly from the federal standards by adopting opt-in instead of opt-out requirements.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, May 27 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.