Tuesday, February 5, 2008

California Senate Approves Bill that Provides New Tools for Punishing Identity Thieves

It's been a good week for Senator Joe Simitian who just had his second piece of privacy protection legislation, SB 612, pass the Senate and move on to the Assembly. The bill would allow a victim of identity theft to prosecute the accused in the county where the victim resides.

Common sense would dictate that victims should have such a right already, but the law currently doesn't quite see it this way. The good news is that every member of the State Senate agreed with our logic and voted for the bill - which passed by an overwhelming count of 40-0. When your identity is stolen, its already stressful enough worrying about protecting your bank accounts, personal identification numbers and other information that could lead to significant loss. Clearly, the law should allow the prosecution to file charges in the county where the victim lives...which is now one step closer to becoming a reality.

InfoWorld covered the story:

California State Senator Joe Simitian -- a Democrat representing the tech-heavy Palo Alto constituency -- is back on the war path fighting for consumer rights relating to the use of information technology, in this case seeking stronger laws regarding data breach reporting guidelines and promoting new legal tools for use in punishing identity thieves.

"Too often identity thieves can act with impunity simply because their victims live in a remote community, expecting a local district attorney to prosecute a case when the victim or victims are all at the other end of the state is simply unrealistic," Simitian said in a statement.

SB 612 would permit, but not require, prosecution in the county where the victim resides, with a judge eventually deciding where to hold the trial.

Experts have also endorsed that piece of legislation.

"Senator Simitian's legislation puts some teeth into our existing laws regarding identity theft. Without prosecution, there's no deterrent," Lenny Goldberg, a lobbyist for the non-profit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, said in a statement.

In another article on CBS 5 news, Senator Simitian commented that, "Local prosecutors are likely to be more aggressive on behalf of local victims. The existing system actually favors the criminal rather than the victim of identity theft."

The Consumer Federation of California will be actively supporting this bill, as well as a other privacy protection bills in 2008. For regular updates on their progress you know where to come!

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