From the “this is beyond creepy and Big Brother-like” category. The US has been very generous to credit agencies such as Equifax, allowing them to collect personal work information (and then resell it) from your employer, but this feels like it’s going too far.
Well, now we find out that Equifax has been collecting detailed salary information on people around the country and possibly selling it. In addition, they’re also collecting data on your doctor, and whether you’ve ever received unemployment benefits. And possibly selling that too. Which is great to know if, say, your doctor only handles AIDS cases or cancer cases or STDs. Always great to have that info out there, and for sale!
A recent study has shown that depression and suicide is linked to debt and giving more information for debt collectors to trawl through certainly doesn’t help.
George Orwell must be turning over in his grave. From Bob Sullivan at NBC’s Red Tape:
But salary information is also for sale by Equifax through The Work Number. Its database is so detailed that it contains week-by-week paystub information dating back years for many individuals, as well as other kinds of human resources-related information, such as health care provider, whether someone has dental insurance and if they’ve ever filed an unemployment claim. In 2009, Equifax said the data covered 30 percent of the U.S. working population, and it now says The Work Number is adding 12 million records annually.
How does Equifax obtain this sensitive and secret information? With the willing aid of thousands of U.S. businesses, including many of the Fortune 500. Government agencies — representing 85 percent of the federal civilian population, including workers at the Department of Defense, according to Equifax — and schools also work with The Work Number. Many of them let Equifax tap directly into their data so the credit bureau can always have the latest employment information. In fact, these organizations actually pay Equifax for the privilege of giving away their employees’ personal information.
Equifax turns around and sells some of this data to third parties, including debt collectors and other financial services companies.
In come the debt collectors. Isn’t it curious that these nasty agencies are turned on the middle class and poor yet surprisingly the same brutal tactics aren’t used on the destroyers of the economy, Wall Street? How many free passes will be handed out by the political class, Democrats and Republicans alike, to Wall Street?
But I suppose when you are the government like Wall Street is, you can call the shots and get away with anything. The law and punishment is for the little people, as the political class likes to confirm so often.