ID Senator Asks Feds to Review Consumer Protection Agency

By Tom Bacon

You may never have heard of a federal agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  But Idaho senior Senator Mike Crapo has.  And he fears it may become a gigantic government vacuum cleaner, sucking up huge reams of information about Americans' spending habits.

Crapo, who is the senior Republican on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, has asked the government watchdog - the Government Accountability Office - to analyze the consumer agency. Specifically, Crapo wants an investigation into the agency's data collection to determine its scope and intended use, its legal authority to collect consumer information, and how much it spends to get the data.

Ever since reports surfaced indicating that the CFPB was spending millions of dollars on data collection efforts, critics of the bureau - notably Republicans - have demanded more details. The CFPB is a creation of the controversial Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The agency argues that data analysis is the cutting edge of research - that it's trying to identify common problems and trends in the consumer finance marketplace by gathering and analyzing reams of data.

The acting chief of the agency has said no personal information is gathered in the process.  But Crapo is not convinced. He's asked the GAO to find out if the data can be reverse engineered to identify individual consumers. That's one question he wants answered in a long list of them.

Crapo's fellow Republicans in the Senate have blocked Richard Cordray's appointment to run the consumer agency - not so much because they oppose him personally, but because they'd like to dismantle the entire Dodd-Frank oversight law.
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