More Warrantless Federal Surveillance: CFPB Collects, Shares Americans’ Credit Card Data


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) isn’t yet 3 years old, but it’s already every bit as entrenched as the National Security Agency (NSA) in snooping through the personal data of millions of unwitting Americans — average people who aren’t suspected of breaking any laws and who have no idea just how far the agency’s so-called “protections” could compromise their privacy.

That’s the report from nonprofit accountability group Judicial Watch (JW), which analyzed a trove of records it compelled the CFPB to hand over through a Freedom of Information Act demand filed in April.

What JW found may be more unsettling than anything the NSA’s been accused of doing.

Why? Because it reveals the CFPB has hoarded financial information from 5 million Americans’ credit and debit card transaction histories, and it has authorized private contractors to share the data across government agencies.

Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy-and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone-government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.

In other words, not only does the CFPB have all the “track 1” and “track 2” data held in the magnetic strip of your credit and debit cards — information like your name, account number, expiration date and service code — it knows when and how you use your cards and what you use them to buy. Worse, the agency paid private contractors to collect all that information in the first place — and then hold onto it so other unnamed government agencies could acquire it, without a warrant and without even relying on a patronizing justification that involves “national security” or some such.

How, then, did the CFPB qualify its ambitious money-spying program? Like this:

THE CFPB seeks to acquire and maintain a nationally representative panel of credit information on consumers for use in a wide range of policy research projects.

The panel [i.e., guinea pigs] shall include 5 million consumers, and joint borrowers, co-signers, and authorized users. The initial panel shall contain 10 years of historical data on a quarterly basis. The initial sample shall be drawn from current records and historical data appended for that sample as well as additional samples during the intervening years to make the combines sample representative at each point in time.

Protection and research: Two things the Federal government uses to aggrandize power and enlarge its intrusion into the private sector.

What’s perplexing about this broad surveillance of information — information that, for most Americans, ranks among their most sensitive and personal – is that there’s no mention (either by the CFPB itself or Judicial Watch) of getting a court order authorizing any of this. U.S. News and World Report published a response in which a CFPB spokesman argued that the agency has had this kind of power ever since it was created under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010.

That spokesman also declared that no one’s collecting data about actual purchases. But if that’s the case, then what other data is worth collecting? And how would it be quarantined from all the other “safe” data that’s being gathered in real time? And who is anybody trusting do carry out all of this? Oh, private contractors.

“The Obama administration’s warrantless collection of the private financial information of millions of Americans is mind-blowing,” said JW President Tom Fitton in a press release posted to the group’s website. “Is there anything that this administration thinks it can’t do? These documents show that the Consumer Financial Protection Board is an out-of-control government agency that threatens the fundamental privacy and financial security of Americans. This is every bit as serious as the controversy over the NSA’s activities.”

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.

  • 1911man

    Ah yes, as the conspiricy theories are being shown not to be theories my tin hat seems to be getting smaller.

  • vicki

    And now we know where identity thieves go to get their information.

  • jim b

    Just goes to show you, two stupid’s don’t make a right! To get to the level of Todd and Frank stupid, one has only to excel in liberalism, a Democrat ideology containing minions of serfs (servants who are fed, clothed, housed, and medicated by the government), and lead by a bunch of bureaucratic fools. Not that the Republicans aren’t much better, just a bunch of pacifist who can’t seem to find their a-holes if their lives depended on it. Our government needs a purging, time to exercise our rights to terminate what amounts to be a growing terrorist organization no longer looking out for our best interest, but their own survival. The conditions of our government is crystal clear, we are in danger, significant danger.

  • Blank Reg

    I dunno which is worse, having had Elizabeth Warren as the head of this agency, or as a Senator….

    • Alan

      Worse is having her at all.

  • Robert Peterson

    Use cash whenever possible

    • Wellarmed

      My new currency is ammunition. It trades well and has a very high exchange rate. I will save the paper for when I run out of it in the john, as that is all it will be good for in the very near future.

      • Robert Peterson

        I use that too in certain situations

  • Wellarmed

    Thank you Mr. Bullard. Isn’t it amazing how these revelations keep on coming. It looks like there is no end in sight? Clearly our Federal Government is out of control, and I am not certain how we the people are going to be able to rein this in using peaceful means if these actions persist.

    When I look back at what had occurred in Nazi Germany, I often wondered how many people it took for Adolf Hitler to solidify control over the masses. I wager it did not take an inordinate number to lay the foundation for what he ultimately wished to construct.

    I doubt that time would diminish the ratio of personal required and the advent of certain technologies could adversely affect the duration of time necessary for power to be seized from the people. I took Former NSA director Binney’s words to heart that what was happening in Bluffdale Utah was no less than turnkey tyranny. It was the actions from the FBI in tearing apart his life that indicated he had struck the right cord.

    What I am ultimately attempting to express though my comments is that it may only require a very small number of people on & in the federal level to institute tyranny. I postulate that as little as 250,000 could easily control 300 million when all is said and done.

    How close are we? And what are we to do about it?

    Can this be resolved through peaceful means?

  • Alan

    This is what Obama means by getting americans back to work, good jobs at good wages plus all the identities you can steal as a benefit.

  • Ibn Insha

    I don’t blame government of any of our problems. It is us, the people. We gave government too much power in return for 100% safety.

  • Dave

    Does everyone here realize the FISA court… you know… the one that ok’s any spying… those 11 judges… are ALL appointed by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court? Who is that? his name is John Roberts and he was appointed by a conservative. Who are the 11 judges? 10 were appointed by conservative presidents.
    I know the truth isn’t really big around here but at least this shows that conservatives have a stronger hand in the spying being done on Americans than Obama.

  • ridge runner

    Just another way for government elits to keep everyone employee government BS programs. It keep anyone from starting a business or doing something not approved by the the beltway marxists/communists one world UN plan.