What to Do if You Suffer a Consumer Data Privacy Violation
Companies engaged in consumer transactions regularly collect data about their customers. This can include sensitive information, such as an individual’s social security number, bank and credit card numbers and biographical details. Companies also gather information on customer shopping preferences, purchasing habits and the like and sell this data to other companies. This information, although presumably gathered for legitimate purposes, can also be harvested by third parties and put to illicit use.
Releases of data to third parties usually occur in one of three ways: consent, unauthorized disclosure or theft.
- Unauthorized disclosure — An organization might distribute private information even when prohibited by contractual agreement or by law. A single rogue employee might release confidential data for selfish purposes, financial gain or by accident. In rare instances, company management might condone unlawful disclosure of private information for profit.
- Theft — Amateur thieves steal mail or even take the private information of close family members. Professional hackers break into secured computer systems belonging to private industry and government and use data for sundry illicit purposes.
The release of private consumer information is often detrimental. It can result in incessant phone calls from telemarketers who purchased customer phone numbers. Obtaining private data also is a major enabler of identity theft, which in turn can result in the victim losing career, business, housing and other opportunities. In extreme cases, publication of a person’s private home address can lead to a physical attack on them or their family.
The scope and depth of data protection laws vary among federal and state jurisdictions. At present, there is no comprehensive federal law on consumer data privacy. Some states, including California, are following the rights-based regulatory framework used in the European Union, under which individuals are deemed to own their personal information and to have the legal right to decide how it can be gathered and used. However, most states allow businesses and institutions to collect personal information without the customer’s express consent. There may be regulations limiting use of such data so as to prevent or mitigate harm to the individual. Also, intentionally sharing information or allowing lapses in data security may carry criminal penalties. If you believe you’ve suffered a violation of your personal data, a qualified consumer privacy lawyer can advise you of your legal options.
The Giatras Law Firm, PLLC in Charleston is one of the most prominent consumer protection and data privacy law firms in West Virginia. Feel free to contact us online or call 888-819-1281 for a consultation.