August 07, 2013

Crapo: Monitoring of Millions of Americans' Financial Accounts Raises Privacy Concerns

Heads panel on consumer protection Monday at Idaho Statehouse, including Attorney General Wasden, Judicial Watch President, Boise class-action attorney

Boise  - Idahoans and Americans who hold credit card, debit card, checking, mortgage, loan and other financial accounts are subject to a new massive data collection effort being undertaken by a federal agency.  That is the message Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and members of a panel will be delivering next week during a news conference at the Idaho Statehouse.

Crapo, the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, learned in recent months that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is engaged in collecting and monitoring massive amounts of data on individuals' personal financial accounts. Crapo has asked repeatedly in committee hearings and through written requests for specific information on the data mining; questions like what data is being collected, how many accounts the Bureau is monitoring, how the information is being used, and what safeguards are in place to protect this sensitive information.

Despite repeated attempts, Crapo received no clear answers from the Bureau and subsequently asked the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the data collection initiative.  The GAO has agreed to this request and work will begin shortly. 

"Recently, cases of privacy abuse from the Internal Revenue Service, the National Security Agency, and even the Post Office have been making headlines," Crapo said.  "There is without a doubt a trust deficit in government today, and we now have a federal agency that is using unchecked power to gather data on the spending habits of hundreds of millions of Americans.  We do not know exactly what information is being collected or how it is being used; the agency has been evasive in its answers to questions from Congress.  We do know that the data includes information from credit card accounts, bank accounts, mortgage transactions and student loan transactions.

"We also know the Bureau is monitoring up to 900 million credit card accounts, and it has spent more than $20 million to collect and analyze this data. The size of this data collection and the amount of money being spent by this federal agency are a cause of concern for me, and should be for those Idahoans and all Americans whose financial and credit data is sent to the Bureau each and every single month."

Several groups share Crapo's concerns regarding CFPB's authority to collect "big data" and are challenging the initiative.  Members on the panel joining Crapo for the August 12 th event include:

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden:  Wasden serves as the State of Idaho's chief legal officer, with duties that encompass enforcement of Idaho's consumer protection laws.   He will offer his perspective as an attorney general committed to privacy for Idahoans and protecting and enhancing the free market.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:  Traveling to Idaho from Washington, D.C., Fitton heads one of the nation's leading government watchdog groups.  Judicial Watch seeks to ensure government and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American public. Judicial Watch obtained records early on revealing the CFPB has spent millions of dollars for the warrantless collection and analysis of Americans' financial transactions.

John Zarian, Boise Attorney:  Think consumer data theft can't happen to you?  Zarian represented consumers in the nation's largest class-action lawsuit to date regarding the illegal theft of consumer financial information.  Zarian, now with the Boise law firm Parsons Behle & Latimer, represented residents of California who won a historic lawsuit over personal information judged to be misused by credit data giant TransUnion.

News Conference on CFPB Consumer Privacy Issues:

Monday, August 12, 2013

10:00 AM

Idaho Statehouse, Lower Level, West Wing, Across from the Lincoln Auditorium

Senator Mike Crapo

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton

John Zarian, Parsons Behle & Latimer

This event follows the Congressional Awards Ceremony which is directly across the hall.