Consumer Watchdog wants to know who is watching your online behavior

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is asking consumers to share information with companies that collect personal information online to check whether their actions are illegal.

Key Takeaways

  • The government’s watchdog wants more information about how companies collect and distribute personal information
  • The CFPB asks consumers to share information with data collectors
  • The CFPB may use this consumer feedback to develop new rules for companies that collect personal data

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

“Modern data surveillance practices have allowed companies to spy on 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, delete or reclaim ownership of their information.

“People rarely choose whether they enter into a business relationship with these companies or whether they will be tracked, yet the information these companies collect may play an important role in important life decisions, such as buying a home or finding a job,” said the CFPB.

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 assist the agency in developing new regulations for the industry.

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

Lawyers Defend CFPB as Congress Readies Efforts to Weaken Agency

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

Although it is currently supported by funds from the Federal Reserve, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in October that the CFPB’s funding sources are unconstitutional. If the agency is forced to rely on Congressional funding, it may hinder the agency’s ability to achieve its mission, said a report by the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) on Thursday.

“If the CFPB must rely on Congressional funding, the banking industry could try to influence members of Congress to withhold funding from regulators unless they do their bidding,” the US PIRG report said. “Efforts to make the CFPB the sole bank regulator under Congress’ appropriations would put the federal agency’s most pro-consumer agency at risk of starving 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 have on consumers. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has introduced similar legislation, along with a bill that would subject the CFPB to the congressional appropriations process.

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