Financial Protection

CFPB wants to hear from consumers about data brokers

The CFPB wants to hear from you. Did you know data brokers know where you go all day long? They collect data from your phone. Did you know they track where you shop on-line? Did you know they collect information about your religious affiliation, if any? Did you know they sell information about your child’s health?

As CFPB director Rohit Chopra said when he announced the study:

“Modern data surveillance practices have allowed companies to hover over our digital lives and monetize our most sensitive data. Our inquiry will inform whether rules under the Fair Credit Reporting Act reflect these market realities.”

We’ve been studying the FCRA for over 30 years. It’s a strong law in many ways. Unfortunately, it only applies to data brokers when they collect or sell data for limited purposes. The FCRA only applies to reports concerning your eligibility for credit, insurance or employment purposes.

Otherwise, data brokers, including the big 3 credit bureaus, are largely unregulated. So, I think the CFPB’s inquiry is timely.

In 2012, I spoke at a  symposium on data brokers. I explained that data brokers and websites were making credit decisions about you. The catch? They aren’t complying with the FCRA.

Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy and I wrote a paper for the Suffolk University Law Review. The name explains it:  Selling Consumers Not Lists: The New World of Digital Decision-Making and the Role of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Summary: Since 1970, the FCRA has allowed the limited use of your credit report for pre-screened marketing. But only if you are given a firm offer of credit. On the Internet, however, data brokers are scoring you without FCRA protections.

Have you ever filled out an online survey? You’ve been scored!

We asked: ‘Does the FCRA need to be updated to address the growing use of real-time database scoring and decision-making on the Internet?’

Today, the CFPB is asking the same question. That’s exciting. One way to participate is to send a comment to [email protected] before June 13.



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