The groups call on the CFPB to address the unregulated collection, sharing, and retention of user data that has led to discrimination, privacy violations, and data breaches.
Today, Fight for the Future and Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) submitted a comment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in response to its inquiry into the business practices of data brokers. In addition to this organizational comment, Fight for the Future has helped more than 4,000 individuals submit comments to the CFPB via the page www.stopdatabrokers.org.
This feedback from the public will provide the CFPB with information about the business practices of data brokers and inform the Bureau’s efforts to administer the law, including planned rulemaking under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The CFPB is also interested in hearing about people’s direct experiences with these companies, including when individuals attempt to remove, correct, or regain control of their data. The stopdatabrokers.org page helps individuals request their personal information from data brokers and gives them the opportunity to report these interactions with the CFPB. Users have reported difficulty requesting their data from brokers. Most often, they receive automated responses, requests being ignored, or in some cases, companies wanting them to fill out additional forms, provide links to their specific profiles which many don’t have access to and jump through additional hoops before they are able to address their request.
Fight and STOP point out in their comment that “The sheer number of companies that each consumer interacts with daily makes sending opt-out requests and following up on those requests impossible for most people. Due to the lack of clear notice, consumers are generally not aware of which companies hold their data. So, even consumers that have substantially enough free time to exercise opt-out rights cannot identify and contact every company that could have their information[…] People with lower income cannot afford privacy protecting services like automated or human agents that opt-out of data use on consumers’ behalf, virtual private network subscriptions, or more expensive hardware that is not subsidized with ongoing ad revenue. Likewise, those who work more than one job or take care of children have less time to read confusing data collection notices and exercise opt-out rights.”
The groups explain that “once companies have collected user data, there aren’t substantial regulations regarding how that data can and cannot be used. As a result, data brokers have free rein with user data which creates significant privacy and security concerns for users, their families and their communities.” They specifically call out fears of data-driven policing becoming greater as more and more states criminalize essential and lifesaving healthcare, including abortion, gender affirming care, and hormone therapy. There is also concern around engaging with data brokers to request personal information and through this process, arming immigration enforcement agencies with information on undocumented individuals that could make them a target.
STOP and Fight for the Future calls on the CFPB to (a) Clarify the Fair Credit Reporting Act, (b) Mandate data minimization and transparency around data sharing, and (c) Ensure data privacy and security of users personal information. By taking these actions, the CFPB can protect users and reduce data broker harms on consumers, their families and their communities.