More Warrantless Federal Surveillance: CFPB Collects, Shares Americans’ Credit Card Data
July 10, 2013 by Ben Bullard
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) isn’t yet 3 years old, but it’s already every bit as entrenched as the National Security Agency (NSA) in snooping through the personal data of millions of unwitting Americans — average people who aren’t suspected of breaking any laws and who have no idea just how far the agency’s so-called “protections” could compromise their privacy.
That’s the report from nonprofit accountability group Judicial Watch (JW), which analyzed a trove of records it compelled the CFPB to hand over through a Freedom of Information Act demand filed in April.
What JW found may be more unsettling than anything the NSA’s been accused of doing.
Why? Because it reveals the CFPB has hoarded financial information from 5 million Americans’ credit and debit card transaction histories, and it has authorized private contractors to share the data across government agencies.
Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy-and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone-government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.
In other words, not only does the CFPB have all the “track 1” and “track 2” data held in the magnetic strip of your credit and debit cards — information like your name, account number, expiration date and service code — it knows when and how you use your cards and what you use them to buy. Worse, the agency paid private contractors to collect all that information in the first place — and then hold onto it so other unnamed government agencies could acquire it, without a warrant and without even relying on a patronizing justification that involves “national security” or some such.
How, then, did the CFPB qualify its ambitious money-spying program? Like this:
THE CFPB seeks to acquire and maintain a nationally representative panel of credit information on consumers for use in a wide range of policy research projects.
The panel [i.e., guinea pigs] shall include 5 million consumers, and joint borrowers, co-signers, and authorized users. The initial panel shall contain 10 years of historical data on a quarterly basis. The initial sample shall be drawn from current records and historical data appended for that sample as well as additional samples during the intervening years to make the combines sample representative at each point in time.
Protection and research: Two things the Federal government uses to aggrandize power and enlarge its intrusion into the private sector.
What’s perplexing about this broad surveillance of information — information that, for most Americans, ranks among their most sensitive and personal – is that there’s no mention (either by the CFPB itself or Judicial Watch) of getting a court order authorizing any of this. U.S. News and World Report published a response in which a CFPB spokesman argued that the agency has had this kind of power ever since it was created under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.
That spokesman also declared that no one’s collecting data about actual purchases. But if that’s the case, then what other data is worth collecting? And how would it be quarantined from all the other “safe” data that’s being gathered in real time? And who is anybody trusting do carry out all of this? Oh, private contractors.
“The Obama administration’s warrantless collection of the private financial information of millions of Americans is mind-blowing,” said JW President Tom Fitton in a press release posted to the group’s website. “Is there anything that this administration thinks it can’t do? These documents show that the Consumer Financial Protection Board is an out-of-control government agency that threatens the fundamental privacy and financial security of Americans. This is every bit as serious as the controversy over the NSA’s activities.”
Ben Bullard Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.