CFPB Chief Puts Brakes On Personal Data Collection

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Interim CFPB head Mick Mulvaney has announced that the agency has frozen its collection of person information due to concerns about cybersecurity.

The choice to hit the pause button on data collection is part of the interim director’s broader plan to improve data security at the consumer watchdog agency. Mulvaney was appointed acting director of the organization after former executive director Richard Cordray stepped down last month.

Mulvaney has been a longtime CFPB critic. Along with other critics of the agency, he has been concerned about the bureau’s work to collect consumer data on credit cards and mortgages through its disclosure rules, consumer complaint database and enforcement actions.

Such actions, according to those opposed, could be a risk to privacy and information security. CFPB proponents and fans of the data collecting have noted that its use in the past has allowed the agency to identify discrimination and other industry misconduct, and can serve as a basis for writing rules.

The push to secure the data, according to Mulvaney, is motivated by two reports out earlier this year that indicated there may be some internal issues at the agency. Issued by the agency’s inspector general, the reports suggested that the CFPB needs to tighten employee access to sensitive information gained through investigative activities, as too much data can fall into the hands of staff that don’t actually need access to it.

“I am taking data security very, very seriously,” Mr. Mulvaney said in a briefing with reporters. “I think we should find ways to have as rigorous a data-security program as possible here before we start expecting that from people who we oversee out in the industry.”

The interim director also noted that his other priorities include a review of the more than 100 enforcement cases by the bureau’s lawyers, with immediate attention paid to cases that are going through courts.

And, despite the hiring freeze, Mulvaney has said he intends to bring in several senior political appointees to work with the heads of the main divisions — such as enforcement, rule making and consumer education. The first of such appointees was named Friday — Republican congressional lawyer Brian Johnson was brought on board as senior adviser.

Johnson worked under House Financial Services Committee Chair Rep. Jeb Hensarling — one of the CFPB’s most vociferous critics.


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