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The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that regulates how consumer reporting agencies use the information in your consumer or credit report. Your consumer report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Consumer reporting agencies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for loans, insurance, employment, or renting a home.
The FCRA promotes the accuracy, fairness and privacy of the information contained in your consumer report. There are many types of consumer reporting agencies, including credit bureaus and specialty agencies (such as agencies that sell information about check writing histories, medical records, and rental history records). Here are some of your rights under the FCRA.
States may enforce the FCRA, and many states have their own consumer reporting laws. In some cases, you may have additional rights under state law.
The Stored Communications Act prohibits companies that provide electronic communication services (i.e., internet and phone companies) from disclosing the contents of consumers’ stored communications without the consumers’ permission. In other words, this act prohibits the unauthorized selling or trading of phone records or internet browsing history.
Importantly, only the companies who provide your internet or phone service, such as Qwest or Verizon, are subject to this Act. For example, a company who sells its services or goods over the internet is not subject to the act because they only sell the products, not the internet service itself.
The Video Privacy Protection Act generally prohibits companies that provide video tape services (i.e., Blockbuster, Netflix, or Redbox) from disclosing personally identifiable information of any of its customers. The company may, however, disclose the names and addresses of the customers, so long as: 1) the customer has a clear opportunity to prohibit such disclosure; and 2) the disclosure does not identify the title, description, or subject matter of any of the video materials rented by the customer, unless the subject matter of the materials is disclosed for the exclusive use of marketing goods and services directly to the customer. The Video Privacy Protection Act also requires providers of video tape services to destroy any personally identifiable information within one year after you terminate your membership and cease doing business with the company.
The Cable Communications Policy Act requires cable service providers (i.e., Comcast, DirecTV, or Dish Network) to make certain disclosures to its customers regarding its use of the subscribers’ personally identifiable information, and it limits a cable service provider’s ability to collect or disclose subscribers’ personally identifiable information.
At the time the subscriber enters into a service agreement, the cable service provider must disclose a written statement describing the information the company collects, how it is used, when and how such information is disclosed to another company, to whom the information is disclosed, the amount of time the service provider stores the information, and the limitations on such collection and disclosure imposed under the act.
A cable service provider may only collect your personally identifiable information in order to obtain information necessary to provide you with your cable service or to detect unauthorized reception of cable communications. Any other use of personally identifiable information is prohibited.
A cable service provider may only disclose your name and address to a third party if 1) you were provided an opportunity to prohibit or limit such disclosure, and 2) the information provided does not reveal the viewing history of your cable services or any transactions you made over the cable system.
The Federal Wiretap Act prohibits anyone from intentionally intercepting any wire, oral, or electronic communication, unless that person is a party to the communication. For example, a company may violate the Wiretap Act by recording a telephone conversation between you and a friend without your knowledge. As another example, a violation may occur if your internet service provider intercepted your online chat session between you and a friend without your knowledge.