WASHINGTON (7/11/13)--As the data collection practices of the National Security Administration continue to come under broad-based scrutiny, the House Financial Services financial institutions and consumer credit subcommittee this week held a hearing to examine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's own consumer data collection practices.
Subcommittee Chairman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) in her opening remarks cited news reports that indicated data on as many as 10 million Americans is held by the CFPB.
The CFPB maintains a database of consumer complaints related to credit cards, deposit accounts, mortgage loans, student loans and consumer loans, and plans to add consumer complaints on other types of financial products over time.
Steve Antonakes, the bureau's acting deputy director, in a prepared statement said access to data containing personal identifiers is sometimes necessary for the CFPB to fulfill its broader mission to protect consumers.
Moore Capito also said she is concerned about the use and storage of personally identifiable information when collecting consumer data files, noting that the U.S. Government Accountability Office and others have found serious deficiencies with the CFPB's systems and controls for the data the bureau and contracted entities are collecting.
"Despite the clear intent of Congress for the CFPB to not collect personally identifiable information, the CFPB acknowledged in a fall 2012 system of records notice that the agency will be collecting personally identifiable information that will be held indefinitely to match data files with other records in order to provide the CFPB with more comprehensive data sets to analyze...We simply do not know the extent to which the CFPB is collecting, storing, or having outside contractors collect and store consumers personally identifiable information," she added.
The Credit Union National Association has expressed concern that the public data release could have unintended consequences and has worked with the bureau to address concerns.
CUNA has warned that sensitive or confidential business or consumer information could be inadvertently disclosed when consumer complaints are filed in the database. "The bureau should take steps to minimize privacy risks and other unintended consequences," CUNA has said in a series of comment letters.