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Lawmakers Question Legality Of Equifax Employment Verification Database

Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 8:34 AM
From Consumerist: 
[Seven U.S. Congresspersons have written the company’s CEO asking for more information about the legality of [The Work Number database].

“Most Americans would consider payroll information very sensitive and private,” begins the letter, signed by [7 members of Congress], that asks Equifax CEO Richard Smith to respond to concerns about the company’s re-selling of the information contained in the Work Number database.

“What is most concerning to us is that this database appears to generate revenue using consumers’ sensitive personal information for profit,” write the legislators. “According to a brochure on your own webste, Equifax brags that The Work Number makes debt collectors’ jobs easier. We are also concerned by the fact that Equifax markets The Work Number specifically to student loan issuers.”

“We believe it is unlikely that consumers understand that they give these third parties the right to access the kind of data included in this database ‘at the time of application’ for credit.”

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It was only a matter of time before this data was monetized. 
6
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,356 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 5,955
1. Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 8:44 AM
More from the story from NBC News' Bob Sullivan on RedTape: 
The Equifax credit reporting agency, with the aid of thousands of human resource departments around the country, has assembled what may be the most powerful and thorough private database of Americans’ personal information ever created, containing 190 million employment and salary records covering more than one-third of U.S. adults.

Some of the information in the little-known database, created through an Equifax-owned company called The Work Number, is sold to debt collectors, financial service companies and other entities.

"It's the biggest privacy breach in our time, and it’s legal and no one knows it’s going on," said Robert Mather, who runs a small employment background company named Pre-Employ.com. "It's like a secret CIA."

Despite all the information Americans now share on social media and websites, and all the data we know companies collect on us, one piece of information is still sacred to most people: their salaries. After all, who would post their salary as a status update on Facebook or in a tweet?

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.

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4
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,356 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 5,955
2. Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 9:08 AM
This just gets better and better (or worse and worse, depending on your perspective) as one continues to drill down. 

As a consumer, you have the right to see what information The Work Number has on your employment history (order a report here), just as you would your credit report.  In the employee section, there is a drop down box that offers "Social Services qualifier" as an option.  When you select that, Equifax displays a pie graph claiming that the information is being used to qualify applicants for government programs such as:  SNAP, Medicaid, TANF, housing assistance, and child support among others. 
4
pearlbrownpearlbrown1,356 posts since
Nov 2, 2010
Rep Points: 5,955
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