The Democratic presidential candidates have chimed in on the data debate. They are focusing their attentions on housing, credit reporting, employment screening, student and medical debt to name a few. Although, these topics do not take center stage like health care, climate change or creating jobs, they do reveal the appetite for reform within the consumer data reporting space and the Democratic party.
CDIA has compiled quick references for you on some of the more outspoken candidates’ stances on consumer data reform in their specific spaces and we will continue to update this field as the dialogue changes or the winnowing of candidates continues.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Sen. Klobuchar has introduced a bipartisan bill with U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT). The bill is S. 1729, the “FIX Credit Reporting Errors Act” or the “FIX Act.” As noted in the summary, the “bill modifies the procedures followed by consumer reporting agencies when a consumer disputes the completeness or accuracy of information contained in the consumer’s credit report. Specifically, consumer reporting agencies are required to (1) include all documentation provided by the consumer in the dispute notification furnished to any person who provided disputed information, and (2) consider such consumer documentation when conducting reinvestigations of disputed information.” In introducing the bill, Sen. Klobuchar said that this “bipartisan legislation will give consumers the tools they need to correct errors on their credit reports so that they can continue their lives and protect their financial futures.”
Privacy and the “Digital Dividend”
At SXSW 2019, Sen. Klobuchar said “[w]e’re their commodity, and we’re not getting anything out of it, right? When they sell our data to someone else, well, maybe they’re gonna have to tell us so we can put some kind of a tax on it, just like we do with other businesses. If you go on a truck, if you send stuff on rail, you have to pay for the roads and you have to pay for the rail, and maybe there’s some way we can do that with large sets of data.”
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Credit Reporting: Public Credit Registry
The report said that “[a]s president, Bernie will: Create a secure public credit registry to replace for-profit credit reporting agencies…This registry will use a public, transparent algorithm to determine creditworthiness that eliminates racial biases in credit scores.” The registry will also “[a]llow Americans to receive credit scores for free.” The plan added that “[w]e must and we will remove the profit motive from assessing the creditworthiness of American consumers. We will establish a public registry that will end racial biases in credit scores and ensure those with medical debt are not penalized for the ‘crime of getting sick.”
The report said a public credit registry, which Sanders would create as president, will “[a]llow Americans to receive credit scores for free.” The report added that “[c]redit scores also systematically perpetuate gaps in wealth and inequality between white and minority consumers.”
Our current lending system relies on three major unsecure, for-profit credit registries to determine creditworthiness. In 2017, the credit reporting agency Equifax suffered a breach that exposed the personal information of more than 140 million Americans. Instead of material consequences, Equifax’s CEO retired with a $90 million pay day. Tens of millions of consumers have incorrect information on their credit reports, which can prevent them from receiving home loans, rental apartments, or good jobs.
Credit scores also systematically perpetuate gaps in wealth and inequality between white and minority consumers. For millions of Americans, one unforeseen medical emergency or illness could send a family into financial destitution or a spiraling debt trap. We must and we will remove the profit motive from assessing the creditworthiness of American consumers. We will establish a public registry that will end racial biases in credit scores and ensure those with medical debt are not penalized for the “crime” of getting sick.
Residential Screening; Employment Screening; Credit-Based Insurance Scores; Non-Lending Use of Consumer Reports
The plan said that “[a]s president, Bernie will:…End the use of credit checks for rental housing, employment, insurance and other non-lending practices.”
The Sanders campaign posted a plan Eliminating Medical Debt in September 2019. Under this plan, “as president, Bernie will…eliminate the $81 billion in past-due medical debt…[T]he federal government will negotiate and pay off past-due medical bills in collections that have been reported to credit agencies.” Also, “Bernie will…[r]emove and exclude medical debt from existing credit reports.
This plan begins with the comment that “[p]oor credit caused by illness can condemn families to cycles of further indebtedness. It can destroy credit scores, which in turn can force families to pay more in rent, make it harder to purchase a vehicle, force them to pay outrageous interest rates to payday lenders, and force families to forgo necessary medical care.” The plan adds that “[m]edical debt is the leading type of debt reported to credit agencies. More than 46 million Americans have at least one unpaid medical bill that has been sent to a collection agency on their credit report. Many hospitals, including many non-profit and public hospitals, aggressively sue low-income patients for medical bills incurred through no fault of their own.”
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Sen. Warren proposed breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google, strictly regulating them as ‘utilities.’ Her proposal “notes that major companies have tightened their grip on the digital market through mergers, but regulators have largely let those deals pass. The result, Warren writes, has been ‘a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector.’”
Businessman and entrepreneur Andrew Yang has outlasted the critic’s premonitions of an early out for the internet meme candidate. He has out-raised sitting Senators and changed the discourse of our politics. Among his bold policy ideas like establishing a universal base income for every United States citizen, he has proposed to establish data as a property right, which has also been mentioned by several House and Senate members. The tenets of his data bill of rights include:
- The right to be informed as to what data will be collected, and how it will be used
- The right to opt out of data collection or sharing
- The right to be told if a website has data on you, and what that data is
- The right to be forgotten; to have all data related to you deleted upon request
- The right to be informed if ownership of your data changes hands
- The right to be informed of any data breaches including your information in a timely manner
- The right to download all data in a standardized format to port to another platform
If Yang continues to raise large amounts of money and gets some good turnout in Iowa we can expect to see him continue his campaign for some time to come.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
For Mayor Pete, he sees reform through overhauling the Federal Arbitration Act to help consumers have a fair chance in a court of law against banks and the consumer’s data should be theirs alone. Some of the points in hi proposed policy are:
- Pass strict regulations on predatory lenders
- Strengthen antitrust standards
- Protect your rights over your own data
- Revive the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s enforcement authority
- Fight big data discrimination