Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill, in a speech Monday at the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Presidential Initiative Summit, urged the states to take a more active role in investigating and holding accountable data brokers for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The FCRA regulates the use of credit report information for credit and insurance eligibility decisions, and also in background checks and other investigative reports. The traditional actors in this space have seen increasing competition from entrants into the market, many of which may not be aware of FCRA’s broad reach and statutory requirements. For example, the FTC recently notified entities that compile rental history data that they are likely subject to FCRA and must abide by its requirements.
The attorneys general have publicly pursued several privacy-related investigations and enforcement actions since Attorney General Gansler announced his “Privacy in a Digital Age” Presidential Initiative. The California attorney general has recently provided guidance to and engaged in enforcement actions against entities active in the mobile application space. And the attorneys general have recently concluded an enforcement action against Google, which resulted in a $7 million settlement for Google’s alleged interception of personal data through its Street View vehicles. Still, the FTC, and not the states, has pursued data brokers for FCRA violations.
Data brokers have long been of interest to the FTC, which singled the industry out as one that needs special attention in its 2012 privacy report. Regulators justify heightened scrutiny because data brokers amass large quantities of valuable consumer data, but are often unknown to consumers. The state attorneys general as a multi-state group investigated and eventually settled with ChoicePoint following that data broker’s 2004 security breach, and individually have investigated entities that engaged in pretexting to obtain and compile phone record data.
As we enter the final few months of Attorney General Gansler’s term as NAAG President, we will keep a close watch on whether the attorneys general answer Commissioner Brill’s call-to-action.