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Consumer protection agency’s data collection comes under scrutiny

By By Sonali Basak

Medill News Service (MCT)

Published: Thursday, Aug. 22 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Some of the critics’ concerns stem from the lack of congressional and executive branch oversight because of the autonomy the agency has been given as a part of the Federal Reserve.

“Often unfocused, overly inclusive, and not coordinated with other regulators,” is how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a letter to Cordray described the bureau’s demands for data.

Many Democrats defend the bureau’s data collection as vital to carrying out its mandate, even as they acknowledge the need for sensitivity in handling individual privacy rights.

“If we’re going to expect the (agency) to create a level playing field for consumers, they’re going to need to have at least the same level of access to information about consumers as the largest banks and financial services providers have,” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said at a hearing in July on the bureau’s data collection.

A report by the consumer protection bureau’s inspector general noted a need for a comprehensive strategy to guide agencywide information security.

On Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives launched an investigation earlier this month into four former bureau employees who left to start a business, raising concerns that they were gaming the regulations they helped write.

Howard said that lawmakers might be less worried about the agency if it were to collect information only for specific complaints against specific companies. But consumer protection bureau officials see that “part of their mandate is just to flat-out gather information, even if it’s not about a specific complaint,” he said. “That’s what’s catching political heat.”

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(The Medill News Service is a Washington program of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.)

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©2013 Medill News Service

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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