[Seven U.S. Congresspersons have written the company’s CEO asking for more information about the legality of [The Work Number database].Read more
“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.”
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.Read more
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.