October 17, 2017

Electronic Privacy Expert Rotenberg Calls Warren-Schatz FREE Act "Excellent Proposal," Agrees Credit Industry Model Needs Reform

In Banking Committee Hearing on Data Security and Credit Bureaus, Sen. Warren Discusses Importance of Data Security to National Security

Video available here (YouTube)

Washington, DC - In a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing today on data security and credit bureaus, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had an exchange with Marc Rotenberg, President of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, about the importance of giving consumers more control over their own data, flaws in the credit reporting market, and the impact of data security on national security.

The Senator highlighted her bill with Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act, which would let consumers freeze and unfreeze access to their credit files for free. Mr. Rotenberg agreed with Senator Warren that it would be a good idea to give consumers more control over their data. He responded, "Senator Warren, I think it's an excellent proposal. And as you say, I think the key to this industry is giving consumers greater control over the use of their personal data. It begins by moving to an opt-in model, allowing the consumer to decide in which circumstances it's in their interest for their credit report to be released to someone else."

Senator Warren also discussed the business model of companies like Equifax that sell consumers' information to businesses. She asked Mr. Rotenberg, "Do you think that consumers should have the right to a free freeze that stops a credit reporting agency from selling access to their data?" Mr. Rotenberg responded saying, "Absolutely, Senator. The model doesn't work unless consumers maintain control, and so many problems of the industry result from the industry pushing the burdens back onto the consumers to choose the freeze, to choose the monitoring service, to inspect their credit report. It's entirely upside down, and it's the reason we have record numbers of identity theft in the United States."

Mr. Rotenberg also noted in his testimony that America must reform the credit reporting industry in order to protect its national security. During an exchange with Senator Warren, he noted that "Data is now the target of foreign adversaries, and we have to realistically consider that the people who get access to our data held by these companies have interests adverse to our nation. That's an additional reason to strengthen these privacy laws." Senator Warren agreed that, "The credit reporting agency is a threat to each of us personally, but it is also a threat to our national security. We need to give consumers more control over their data and reform this industry."