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New federal database would contain details on 227 million Americans

Published time: May 30, 2014 20:22
Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

Two independent federal agencies are coming under attack after calling for the creation of a nation-wide database that would collect the Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information of as many as 227 million Americans.

That’s what the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau asked for, at least, with an April 16 Federal Register notice of expansion that failed to garner attention of the media until Friday this week. That morning, Richard Pollock at the Washington Examiner wrote that the creation of a new national database as outlined in last month’s memo would contradict previously stated policy and put the personal details pertaining to hundreds of millions of Americans in one shared database.

“FHFA will manage the database and share it with CFPB,” Pollock wrote. “A CFPB internal planning document for 2013-17 describes the bureau as monitoring 95 percent of all mortgage transactions.”

According to the notice of expansion posted last month, the database would satisfy requirements of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, as well as help it prepare an annual report given to Congress. In doing as much, however, the agencies want their hands on more than just a few miniscule details.

The records the agencies want to plug into the new database include loan-level data in five dimensions: mortgage logs, real estate transactions, household demographic data on the borrower, physical characteristics pertaining to the house and neighborhood and a full credit report, the agencies acknowledged. In the fine print, though, the FHFA and CFPB say they want to collect more than just a few tidbits.

Elsewhere in the notice,the agencies state that “Records in the system may include without limitation” the likes of not only basic borrower information, such as name, address and zip code, but also ethnicity, gender, language, religion, social security number, education records and military status.

In response, Pollock wrote, at least two members of Congress have raised concerns, and in a recent letter to FHFA Director Mel Wattand CFPB Director Richard Cordray spoke up about their objections. According to the Rep.Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen.Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the creation of the database as sought by the agencies last month “represents an unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of ordinary Americans, and can be easily perceived as an abuse of the trust placed in your agencies by the American people. “

Watt and Cordray’s concerns might come too little, too late: as Pollock acknowledged, only 12 members of the American public submitted comments after the notice of expansion was posted on April 16. Nevertheless, lawmakers are now starting to speak up.

“When you look at the kinds of data that are going to be collected on individuals, just about anything about you is going to be in this database,” Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) told the Examiner.

According to The Hill, both the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions have raised concerns as well.