Brown on Consumer Data: Laws Protect Big Corporations, Not Consumers

Following Equifax Breach, Senator Called for Consumers to Have More Control over Their Own Data

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – today continued his push for greater protections for Ohioans’ data in light of the Equifax data breach that compromised the data of more than 5.2 million Ohioans and 145 million Americans.

“It seems our laws protect big corporations’ use of people’s data a lot better than they actually protect people,” said Brown. “While 145 million people have had their private data exposed, it doesn’t appear that any sensitive corporate data was accessed. Because these businesses are not accountable to consumers, and because consumers have no choice over who is collecting their information, consumer protection is always an afterthought.”

Today’s hearing is a follow up to the Committee’s bipartisan hearing earlier this month, where Brown pressed former Equifax CEO Richard F. Smith on the need to invest more in consumer data protections. At that hearing, Brown called for consumers to have more control of their own data, similar to how Americans have ownership of their medical records. It is illegal for companies to buy and sell medical records, and patients must consent before their information is transferred. However, companies like Equifax are free to buy and sell sensitive data without people’s consent or knowledge. Brown suggested Americans should have the right to request their data be deleted from Equifax’s system or at the other consumer reporting agencies.

Brown followed up on those calls today, raising the difficulties faced by consumers who try to fix inaccurate credit reports, and asked witness Marc Rotenberg – President of the Electronic Privacy Information Center – if consumers should have access to all data held by Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Brown noted that these inaccuracies result in the three credit agencies being three of the most complained about companies to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Do you think it would make sense to prevent these consumer reporting agencies from collecting new personal data or providing other services until they have met an accuracy metric in their consumer credit reporting; and should consumers be allowed access to all of the data held by Equifax, Experian, and Transunion?” Brown asked.

Video of Brown’s questions is available here. Video of Brown’s full opening statement at today’s hearing is available here