U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D- San Francisco, Wednesday asked credit reporting agency Equifax Inc. to prove that subsidiary, The Work Number, is not violating consumer privacy laws. She made the request in a letter signed by six members of Congress.
Last week, NBCNews.com reported that sensitive employment information, including salaries, on millions of Americans is being sold to collection agencies, financial service companies and other entities. The information was allegedly housed in a large database creating through The Work Number, owned by Equifax.
Equifax denied Speier's allegations, saying The Work Number does not provide collectors with salary or income information and that the subsidiary is compliant with Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) guidelines geared to protect consumers and employees.
“The only time we will provide salary information to entities allowed to receive it under the [FCRA] - typically financial institutions, mortgage companies, auto finance, consumer credit companies -- is if it is a request that qualifies as ‘permissible purpose’ by the FCRA,” Equifax said in a statement. “In addition, we take the added step of requiring that the consumer provide consent that we can share the salary information we have on them.”
But Speier, in a statement, said: "The Work Number appears to have operated under the radar, with little public awareness of the vast trove of data it was gathering. There is no greater threat to privacy than the creation of a database of sensitive consumer financial and personal information sold for profit for purposes that are unclear and without the knowledge of the consumer. Equifax needs to explain exactly how it is using this data, and provide evidence that The Work Number does not pose a threat to the privacy of 190 million Americans."
Equifax on Wednesday reported revenue for 2012 went up 10.2% to $2.2 billion as net income rose 17% to $272.1 million.