Consumer Watchdog Wants to Know Who's Watching Your Internet Behavior

CFPB asks consumers to share experiences with companies selling personal information in a bid to bring new rules

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Rohit Chopra

Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is asking consumers to share their experiences with companies that collect personal information online to evaluate if their practices are illegal.

Key Takeaways

  • Government watchdog wants more information on how companies collect, distribute personal information
  • CFPB is asking consumers to share their experiences with data collectors
  • CFPB can use this consumer feedback to make new rules on companies that collect personal data

The move will help the CFPB to understand the “full scope” of the information collection practices of data brokers, including the types of information they collect and sell, as well as the sources of information they use. 

“Modern data surveillance practices have allowed companies to hover over our digital lives and monetize our most sensitive data,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in a statement.

The agency also wants to hear from consumers who have had direct contact with these businesses, especially those who have attempted to correct, remove or retake ownership of their information.

“People often have little choice about whether to enter into business relationships with these companies or whether they will be tracked, yet the data these companies collect may nevertheless play a decisive role in significant life decisions, like buying a home or finding a job,” the CFPB said. 

The information collected from the public will be used to help determine whether these businesses are operating within the rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and will help the agency in crafting new rules for the industry. 

The move comes after the CFPB launched a 2021 inquiry into the payment systems of several large online companies, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Paypal, and Square.

Advocates Defend CFPB as Congress Readies Efforts to Weaken Agency

Meanwhile, consumer protection advocates are trying to support the CFPB amid questions about its future funding and efforts in Congress to abolish the agency. 

While it is currently supported through funds from the Federal Reserve, the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in October that the CFPB’s funding sources are unconstitutional. If the agency if forced to rely on funding from Congress, it could erode the agency’s ability to accomplish its mission, a U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) report said Thursday.

“If the CFPB has to rely on Congressional funding, the banking industry could try to influence members of Congress to withhold funding from regulators unless they do their bidding,” said the US PIRG report.  “Efforts to make the CFPB the only banking regulator subject to Congressional appropriations would put the most pro-consumer federal agency at risk of being starved of the funding it needs to protect consumers and, therefore, must be resisted."

In January, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., introduced a bill that would eliminate the CFPB, which he said would reduce the burden federal banking regulations are having on consumers. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has introduced similar legislation, as well as a bill that would subject the CFPB to the congressional appropriations process.

Article Sources
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  1. CFPB, “CFPB Launches Inquiry Into the Business Practices of Data Brokers

  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “CFPB Orders Tech Giants to Turn Over Information on their Payment System Plans

  3. U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "Watching Wall Street."

  4. Congressman Byron Donalds. "Rep. Donalds Announces Legistlation Abolishing The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."

  5. Sen. Ted Cruz, “Sens. Cruz, Hagerty, Colleagues Introduce Legislation To Subject The Cfpb To Regular Congressional Appropriations Process