CFPB Could Use Credit Reporting Act Against Data Brokers

America’s consumer watchdog wants to crack down on “data brokers” who collect and sell people’s personal information.

Speaking at a White House roundtable Tuesday (Aug. 15), Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Rohit Chopra said his agency wants to prevent “misuse and abuse” by these brokers using the 52-year-old Fair Credit Reporting Act.

“Of course, today’s surveillance firms have modern technology to build even more complex profiles about our searches, our clicks, our payments, and our locations,” Chopra said. “These detailed dossiers can be exploited by scammers, marketers, and anyone else willing to pay.”

“While there are many efforts to expand personal data protections at the federal and state level, particularly when it comes to AI, we also have to make sure we’re using our existing laws on the books,” he said.

Chopra said the CFPB is considering a rule that would define data brokers who sell certain types of consumer data as a “consumer reporting agency,” which give consumers more protection under the law.

In addition, the bureau is weighing regulations to determine if information contained in consumer reports issued by credit reporting agencies – and given to data brokers – is also considered a consumer report. 

This rule, Chopra said, would put limits on “the ability of credit reporting companies to impermissibly disclose sensitive contact information that can be used to identify people.” 

As noted here Tuesday, the effort to provide greater privacy protections was fueled in part by President Joe Biden’s call for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect the data privacy of women seeking reproductive healthcare. 

The FTC responded by filing suit against an Idaho company for selling mobile phone geolocation data which could be tied to abortion providers, churches and addiction treatment centers.

Meanwhile, while the FTC is using ’70s era legislation to crack down on data brokers, it’s also keeping an eye on the way modern technology could impact its efforts.

“Reports about monetization of sensitive information — everything from the financial details about members of the U.S. military to lists of specific people experiencing dementia — are particularly worrisome when data is powering ‘artificial intelligence’ and other automated decision-making about our lives,” Chopra said in the statement provided to PYMNTS.

The CFPB launched an investigation into companies that track and collect consumer data in March, saying then that it “wants to understand the full scope and breadth of data brokers and their business practices, their impact on the daily lives of consumers, and whether they are all playing by the same rules.”