GOP senator demands review of consumer bureau’s data grab

The top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee wants a government watchdog to take a long, hard look at the data collected by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) on Tuesday asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on the bureau's data collection efforts and make sure the agency is not improperly collecting personal financial information.

"The size and scope of this data collection warrant proper government oversight to both guard consumers' privacy and ensure that the CFPB is acting within its existing authority," he wrote.

Specifically, Crapo wants the GAO to determine exactly what data the CFPB is collecting, and for what purpose. He also wants to know what specific legal authority the CFPB is relying on in its collection efforts, how the bureau protects the privacy of the information collected, and how much it is paying outside parties to gather it.

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Ever since reports indicated the CFPB was devoting millions of dollars to data collection efforts, critics of the bureau, a creation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, have wanted to know more details.

In June, the Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, expressing concern over the practice.

David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, wrote that the "lack of transparency around its data-collection efforts makes it very difficult to evaluate the prudence and the legality of the collection process and the strength of the security measures the bureau is taking to protect consumers’ data."

Cordray has defended the practice, arguing that data analysis is the "cutting edge" of research, and the bureau wants to identify common problems and trends in the consumer finance marketplace through data aggregation and analysis.

The CFPB has said its collection practices are fully compliant with existing laws, and that no personal information is gathered in the process.

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