Credit rating agency Equifax collecting, possibly selling, your salary data and more

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's Press Pass Photo

George Orwell’s Press Pass Photo

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.

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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4 Responses to “Credit rating agency Equifax collecting, possibly selling, your salary data and more”

  1. Today, we live in glass houses, tomorrow they will make us dress in clear plastic sheets. Only if Orwell could have lived to see his fiction take on a life of its own and run rampant, selling liberty and privacy, pound to a cent.

  2. Naja pallida says:

    There is something fundamentally wrong with for profit companies collecting what is essentially blackmail material on millions of people, and that data being used to essentially determine if someone is deserving of the basic things in life like a good job, insurance, a home of their own, etc. These companies seriously need to be stomped on. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some kind of financial consumer protection?

  3. Ford Prefect says:

    Looks like you’ve buried the lede:

    The law and punishment is for the little people, as the political class likes to confirm so often.

    Welcome to the Predator State. It’s all about disciplining the poor and creating more poor people to discipline, while the CEO-Class runs amok. None of this is a problem for the well-connected, of course.

    Who knew oppression was so damned profitable?

  4. sunmusing says:

    All three credit reporting agencies have way too much power over working folks…they should be outlawed and or regulated….they cause more pain and hardship than a republican in a congressional hearing…

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