Experian Facing Congressional Scrutiny over Sale of Info to ID Thieves

Oct. 31, 2013

Large data brokers are facing increasing scrutiny over several recent high-profile security breaches that have put personally identifiable information, including financial details and information consumers use to establish knowledge-based authentication questions, at risk. Experian—not hacked, but found to have sold information directly to identity thieves—has received a written demand from U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) for information about how it collects, stores and shares consumers’ personal data.

Rockefeller, as chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, has had his eye on data brokers like Experian (and LexisNexis and Dun & Bradstreet, which were caught up in another recent breach) since well before the recent spate of intrusions.

“The committee’s investigation has focused to date on how companies including Experian collect and sell consumer information for marketing purposes, while the information Experian reportedly sold to identity thieves—such as Social Security numbers and banking information—appears to be data Experian collects and sells for risk assessment activities,” Sen. Rockefeller wrote in the letter to Experian President Donald Robert. “However, if these recent news accounts are accurate, they raise serious questions about whether Experian as a company has appropriate practices in place for vetting its customers and sharing sensitive consumer data with them, regardless of the particular line of business.”

Earlier this month, Experian announced a partnership with antifraud technology provider 41 st Parameter to strengthen the fraud-fighting capabilities it can offer to companies that purchase its consumer data for risk management.

Another recent breach , this one at popular software provider Adobe, is worse than originally thought. The company, which originally reported that 3 million records had been compromised in the attack, confirmed this week that the total number of affected consumers is closer to 38 million.