Federal regulators and the courts already have sufficient power to punish banks that misuse confidential data collected on-line, banking attorney L. Richard Fischer said Wednesday.
Mr. Fischer, a partner with Morrison & Foerster, here, said banking trade groups should not be required to discipline members that violate industry privacy guidelines.
"Federal agencies are required to make sure banks don't engage in deceptive practices," he said at a Commerce Department symposium on Internet privacy. "So whatever privacy practices individual banks say they follow are enforceable in court."
Mr. Fischer and other financial services representatives disagreed with Commerce Secretary William M. Daley, who said Tuesday that tougher privacy regulations will be needed if trade groups do not enforce industry standards.
Mr. Fisher said bank customers historically have put more emphasis on confidentiality than the general population and that banks will lose business if they do not have adequate safeguards.
"Without strong privacy, banks don't have customers."
Beth Givens, project director for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, said too many abuses are occurring.
"Quite a few people have had confidential information given away by bank employees," she said. "These could be customers involved in anything from a nasty divorce to a business dispute."
Mr. Fischer said privacy violations will be uncovered either through customer complaints or by bank examiners.
"There has been a lot of talk about requiring third-party verification of privacy procedures, but banks live with regulators on their premises every day," he said.