CFPB’s ‘NSA-like’ surveillance in limbo with leadership tussle

The Washington Examiner quoted John Berlau in the need for regulatory reform and the need to eliminate the cache of consumer data which the CFPB has been collecting because it infringes on a wide-range of consumer rights as well as consumer privacy. 

The fight for control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may have significant effects on the bureau’s mass acquisition of private financial records, according to privacy advocates.

The CFPB pools vast quantities of data for research purposes, including millions of people’s credit card records, which it says are anonymized, commercially available and tracked to help consumers, not to spy on them.

Critics doubt the adequacy of safeguards, however, and liken the credit data-collection to the National Security Agency’s monitoring of internet and phone records under laws that allow tracking of spies and terrorists.

Mick Mulvaney, who assumed command of the CFPB on Monday morning, has been broadly critical of the independent agency as a “rogue” organization.


“Like other federal regulators, the CFPB is a data-driven agency and the CFPB uses anonymized industry data to better understand the markets it oversees,” the spokesperson said. “The consumer credit history data and other information from industry data sources is used by CFPB staff to analyze industry trends, conduct research about household finances, and assess the impact of its proposed rules on consumers and industry.”

Documents acquired in 2013 by Judicial Watch, however, prompted concern about ambitions to monitor 80 percent of all U.S. credit card transactions and information on up to 95 percent of mortgages.

John Berlau, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner that he believes “it would be good policy and good politics for Mulvaney to get rid of it as quickly as he can.”

“It results in red tape but also it violates so many Americans’ privacy, having this NSA-like database and not for any national security purposes,” he said.

“The NSA at least is subject to congressional appropriations,” Berlau added, referring to the CFPB’s budgetary independence.

“They never were specific about how they anonymized that data,” he said.

Read the full article at The Washington Examiner