Equifax just sold off your privacy

The credit reporting agency makes individual information available to debt collectors, and it's all perfectly legal.

By Jason Notte Jan 31, 2013 4:59PM
Woman on the Telephone -- Radius Images, Radius Images, Getty ImagesIf anyone out there on the Internet remembers the quaint notion of privacy, please explain it to Equifax (EFX).

Like many of the jaded members of online society, the credit reporting agency seems to have resigned itself to the idea that no electronic information is 100% private. That's not such a great conclusion to reach when you're sitting on a database containing the salaries, employment records, lending histories and spending habits of nearly a third of American adults.

That information all may have been considered private in simpler times, but NBC News found that Equifax sold chunks of it to debt collectors and other financial service companies.

According to NBC's report, Equifax takes such information from U.S. businesses and ships it off to a subsidiary called The Work Number. That group then verifies employment and income data for lenders and other job screeners. Everything would be nice and private if the trail ended there, but Equifax then sells some of that compiled data to debt collectors, who then get access to individual information that employers could ordinarily deny.

Demitra Wilson, a spokesperson for Equifax, told The Huffington Post that debt collectors are free to request employment data from The Work Number at any time. That's a lot of information, but it's all legal thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which originally passed in 1970 but has been amended several times since to conform with the Patriot Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and other legislation.

Equifax and its fellow credit agencies Experian and TransUnion have drawn increased scrutiny within the last year after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began looking over their shoulders and questioning the accuracy of their reports. Back in September, Reuters reported that the consumer watchdog agency was showing about 20% of Americans a different credit score than they were showing potential lenders.

This leaves consumers with two options: Don't amass debt or take it up with Congress, which can then unleash the CFPB. While Americans have had a notoriously tough time with the former, their sub-16% job-approval rating for Congress might inspire some reluctant austerity.

More on moneyNOW

Jan 31, 2013 6:11PM

If you work for a medium/large size employer, chances are good that your employment data, including dates of service and salary, either has been or will soon be, provided to Equifax's The Work Number subsidiary.  The reason:  The Human Resources Dept. at these companies do not want to deal with employment verification calls, be it from new potential employers or the bank or finance company you are trying to get a car loan from.  So they have found that simply turning your data over to Equifax is an easy way out of providing the info themselves. 


Personally I feel it is an invasion of privacy, esp. the salary data.  Nearly anyone, if they really want to find out how much you make, can do so if the info is in this database. 

Jan 31, 2013 5:58PM
Sorry folks, this should be illegal and punishable by law.
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