ASSEMBLY, No. 2664
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
INTRODUCED JANUARY 23, 1997
By Assemblymen COTTRELL and MALONE
An Act concerning unauthorized sale of personal information about children and supplementing Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Children's Privacy Protection and Parental Empowerment Act."
2. As used in this act:
"Child" means a person who is under the age of 16 years.
"Parent" means a parent, guardian or other lawful custodian.
"Person" means a natural person, corporation, association, partnership or governmental entity.
"Personal information" means information that identifies a person including but not limited to his name, address, telephone number, social security number, electronic mail address, physical description, or photograph, that would be sufficient to locate and contact that person who is a child.
"List broker" means a person who, in the course of business, provides mailing lists, computerized or telephone reference services or similar services containing personal information concerning children.
3. It is unlawful for a list broker, as defined in section 2 of this act, to:
a. Sell, purchase, resell, rent, or otherwise provide for remuneration personal information about a child without having on file a form bearing the signature of the parent authorizing the release; or
b. Condition any sale or service to a child or his parent on the granting of consent for release; or
c. Knowingly fail to comply with the request of a parent to disclose:
(1) the source of personal information about that parent's child;
(2) all information sold by the list broker about the child and all other information in the possession of the list broker, except information which under common law, statute or the State or federal constitutions may not be disclosed; or
(3) the identity of all persons to whom personal information about the child has been disclosed.
4. It shall be unlawful for a person to:
a. Fail to comply with any parental request set forth in paragraphs (1), (2) or (3) of subsection c. of section 3 of this act if a person, who is not a list broker, uses personal information about a child, in the course of commerce, that was obtained for commercial purposes, to directly contact the child or a parent or guardian of the child to offer a commercial product or service to the child.
b. Knowingly use personal information about a child that was collected from the child by the user for commercial purposes in connection with a game, contest or club, without the permission of a parent or guardian of the child;
c. Knowingly use prison inmate labor or that of a person who is registered as a sex offender pursuant to P.L.1994, c.133 (C.2C:7-1 et seq.) for data processing of personal information about children; or
d. Knowingly distribute or receive any personal information about a child, knowing or having reason to believe that the information will be used to abuse or otherwise physically harm the child.
5. Any person who violates section 3 or subsections a., b. or c. of section 4 of this act is a disorderly person. Any person who violates subsection d. of section 4 of this act is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. In addition to any other penalties which may be imposed for these offenses, the person shall be subject to a fine not to exceed three times the amount received for any unlawful sale, resale or rental of personal information. Further, a person aggrieved by a violation of this act may bring an action in the Superior Court, Special Civil Part, Small Claims Division in the county of the child's residence, to enjoin further violations and to recover the actual damages sustained by reason of such violation, including costs and reasonable attorneys fees, or an amount not to exceed $2,000 for each occurrence, whichever is greater.
6. This act shall take effect on the first day of the fifth month after enactment.
This bill, the "Children's Privacy Protection and Parental Empowerment Act," is patterned on H.R.3508 of 1996, which is sponsored in the House of Representatives by Congressman Bob Franks. It is designed to give parents and guardians greater control over the use of personal information about their children.
As the information age continues to unfold, the Legislature has an obligation to monitor the new technology and make sure that reasonable safeguards are in place to protect the State's most vulnerable residents -- its children. The safety and privacy of the State's children are endangered by certain commercial practices. For example, parents across the State sign up their children for birthday clubs at fast food establishments. They also fill out consumer surveys about their family's buying habits at the local supermarket in exchange for a free product or discount coupons. These parents probably do not know that the personal and sometimes sensitive information they have innocently provided about their children may be offered for sale to a list vendor. A list vendor is defined in the bill as those persons who provide mailing lists and computerized or telephone reference services containing personal information about children under age 16.
List vendors are free to sell this information to whomever wishes to purchase it. Anyone with a mailing address can order a specific list that might include names, ages, addresses, and phone numbers of all children in a certain neighborhood, or perhaps a listing of all 10 year old boys in a particular community who have video game systems. Parents usually have no idea why their children are being solicited by direct mail advertisers or tele-marketers. This bill addresses the danger of this information reaching the wrong hands.
The most important provision of this bill is intended to limit the extent of personal information that can be sold, resold or rented without a parent's consent. Written permission from a parent or guardian must be obtained and kept on file. This legislation would give parents the right to compel list brokers to release to parents all the information they have compiled about the parents' child.
In addition, the list vendor would be required to turn over to the parents the name of anyone to whom they have distributed personal information about their child. Furthermore, list brokers would need to be more diligent about verifying the identity of companies and individuals seeking to buy lists of children.
The bill also addresses a potentially dangerous practice that has been used by various states. In Texas, convicted pedophiles were being handed personal information about children for computer data entry by a list vendor with a state contract. These practices would be impermissible under the bill.
The bill makes it a crime of the fourth degree for a person to distribute or receive personal information about children, with the knowledge that this information would be used to harm a child. Persons violating other provisions of the bill would be disorderly persons. Also, the bill would permit actions to be brought in small claims court by parents for actual damages of up to $2,000.
Designated the "Children's Privacy Protection and Parental Empowerment Act.