Published September 1, 2002 | September 2002 issue
In what some see as a predictor of the national mood, voters overwhelmingly agreed that financial institutions in the state cannot share, sell or otherwise disclose their customers' personal financial information without that customer's explicit written permission.
In a June referendum, 73 percent voted to overturn a state law that had brought North Dakota into line with federal policy instituted by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that modernized banking regulations. The former state law said that financial institutions needed to notify customers if they planned to sell data, but customers' silence signaled their permission to go ahead.
Now, customers must give written permission, or "opt-in," to allow personal data to be passed along. The vote came despite financial industry warnings that such restrictions could seriously harm their business, but prior to Gramm-Leach-Bliley, North Dakota already had a privacy law in place.
North Dakota is the first state to put the question of financial privacy before the voters.