Originally created 07/23/02

Law offers relief from solicitations

South Carolina residents could see fewer telemarketing calls and mail solicitations thanks to a little-known privacy law that kicked in this spring.

The Family Privacy Protection Act, which took effect in May, prohibits the wholesale purchase of public records that would be used to create marketing lists.

The law's creator, state Sen. John Hawkins, began drafting the legislation after public outcry a few years ago over the purchase of South Carolina drivers license information by New Hampshire-based Image Data.

"I was shocked there was no state law prohibiting the sale of people's information to telemarketers and junk mailers," the Spartanburg Republican said.

Tina Friery, spokeswoman for the San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer research and advocacy group, said she was unaware of any other state passing such a law.

"If enough states passed these laws, hopefully the federal government will catch on and pass a federal law," she said.

Public records, such as property transfers, are often purchased by companies known as data brokers, which sell the information to companies that use it to create mailing lists for marketing campaigns.

One local data broker, Merchants Credit Bureau, recently stopped publishing its Daily Record, in part, because of the new law. Subscribers included companies that would use the information to solicit customers.

The company, a bureau office for credit reporting service Experian, still collects data used by creditors when making loan decisions.

"The law is designed to keep companies from taking data and using it for commercial solicitation purposes," said Brian McKinney, vice president of the bureau.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or dcline@augustachronicle.com.


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