U.S. News and World Report: What You Don't Know About Black Friday
This Friday, before the sun is up, millions of Americans will have swiped their debit and credit cards to capitalize on Black Friday "doorbuster" deals. These consumers know when and where to shop, but do they know what happens to their personal information each time they make a purchase?
Most Americans will be shocked to learn that their holiday spending habits are being collected and analyzed by a government agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Every month, the CFPB collects data on approximately 25-75 million credit card accounts. The agency even admits that they want to build up their capacity so that they can monitor 95 percent of all credit card transactions in this country by 2016.
Like many government agencies, the CFPB is a product of big government. Masked behind a virtuous name is a mammoth government agency that spends $600 million taxpayer dollars a year. Even more concerning, the CFPB is not funded by Congress, thereby evading the normal checks and balances of other agencies.
The American people deserve a closer look at the CFPB and how its actions will impact consumers, because the vast amount of consumer financial information they have already collected is alarming.
[OPINION: Just Like Ours, Presidential Thanksgivings Don't Always Go as Planned]
When the CFPB was created under the Dodd-Frank Act in 2011, it was purposefully placed outside of the annual congressional appropriations and oversight process. Since then, the CFPB has been collecting credit card information, stockpiling mortgage and car loan history as well as tracking bank transactions of millions of consumers.
Every month, the agency collects data on an average of 700,000 auto sales, 10.7 million credit reports, 25-75 million credit card accounts and 29 million active mortgage loans. On top of the CFPB's monthly data collections, the agency has made large-scale, one-time collections of consumer credit scores, bank account data and student loans.
[READ: Leaving Consumers High and Dry]
It is unclear exactly what the agency is doing with this personal data because of the lack of oversight. What information Congress does know outlines an agency that controls possibly the largest and most extensive collection of consumer financial data outside of the IRS. Given recent data breaches at large American companies and cyberattacks on other federal government agencies, we must know more about how the CFPB is using and storing that data.
Prior to the creation of the CFPB, at least six federal regulatory agencies already performed similar functions. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Credit Union Administration and the Office of Thrift Supervision already conduct consumer protection checks during their examinations of financial institutions. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission is the investigatory agency for consumer complaints. There is no need for another layer of bureaucracy with little transparency.
[READ: Congress Takes Steps to Keep Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Line]
Ideally, the CFPB and all of the Dodd-Frank law should be repealed, but an important first step includes increased oversight. If the CFPB wants to impose rules that impact the financial decisions of every American, it should be subject to the same level of scrutiny as every regulatory arm of our government.
Earlier this year, Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and I separately introduced legislation to bring the CFPB under the regular appropriations process. This would charge Congress with the responsibility to conduct oversight over the CFPB and their data-collection activities.
Americans already have plenty of government watchdogs. Everywhere we turn, there's a government agency trying to regulate, tax and monitor our every move. We don't need another monitoring agency.
In this case – just like the best "doorbuster" deals – less is indeed, more.