New National Database will Collect Credit Card Information, Account Balances, Loan Details and More…By Name
Two federal agencies are proposing the expansion of a database that would sweep up information such as credit scores, marital and family status and financial information from millions of homeowners in personally identifiable records that could be vulnerable to hackers.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) posted a notice April 16 that they sought an expansion of their National Mortgage Database Program to include information that would identify individual mortgagees. The database would include information on “first lien single-family mortgages in existence at any point in time from January 1998 to the present (and continuing on into the future),” according to the notice.
The FHFA and CFPB came under fire from two members of Congress for the proposal. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, sent a letter (pdf) to FHFA Director Mel Watt and CFPB Director Richard Cordray expressing concern about the proposed expansion and looking for justification for the proposal, according to the Washington Examiner.
“[T]his expansion represents an unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of ordinary Americans, and can easily be perceived as an abuse of the trust placed in your agencies by the American people,” the letter said.
The proposal is an apparent shift from what Cordray told the House Financial Services Committee in a hearing on January 28. Then, he said the database would include only aggregate information without personal identifiers.
The legislators aren’t the only ones troubled by the proposal. Angela Meyster, regulatory affairs counsel for the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, told the Examiner, “It seems they’re just adding information and they’re not really stating where it’s going or what it’s going to be used for. There’s no straightaway answer. They say they are trying to assemble as much information that they can.”
The proposal says the expansion is designed to be a representative sample of about 5% of borrowers and would include “performance data on the mortgage and all credit lines (i.e. credit cards, student loans, auto loans, and other loans reported to credit bureaus) of the mortgage borrower and all those associated with the mortgage.”
It would also “include without limitation: (1) Borrower/co-borrower information (name, address, zip code, telephone numbers, date of birth, race/ethnicity, gender, language, religion, social security number, education records, military status/records, employment status/records).”
Meyster said that information could be compromised. “We’re essentially concerned that these government systems don’t have the necessary precautions to make sure that individual consumers are identified through the database,” she said.
To Learn More:
New Federal Database Will Track Americans’ Credit Ratings, Other Financial Information (by Richard Pollock, Washington Examiner)
Notice Of Revision To An Existing System Of Records; Request For Comments (Federal Register)
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