As many as 227 million Americans may be compelled to disclose intimate details of their families and financial lives — including their Social Security numbers — in a new national database being assembled by two federal agencies.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau posted an April 16 Federal Register notice of an expansion of their joint National Mortgage Database Program to include personally identifiable information that reveals actual users, a reversal of previously stated policy.
FHFA will manage the database and share it with CFPB. A CFPB internal planning document for 2013-17 describes the bureau as monitoring 95 percent of all mortgage transactions.
Critics, however, question the need for such a “vast database” for simple reporting purposes.
In a May 15 letter to FHFA Director Mel Watt and CFPB Director Richard Cordray, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, charged, “this expansion represents an unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of ordinary Americans.”
Crapo is the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Hensarling is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
Critics also warn the new database will be vulnerable to cyber attacks that could put private information about millions of consumers at risk. They also question the agency’s authority to collect such information.
Earlier this year, Cordray tried to assuage concerned lawmakers during a Jan. 28 hearing of Hensarling’s panel, saying repeatedly the database will only contain “aggregate” information with no personal identifiers.
But under the April register notice, the database expansion means it will include a host of data points, including a mortgage owner’s name, address, Social Security number, all credit card and other loan information and account balances.
The database will also encompass a mortgage holder’s entire credit history, including delinquent payments, late payments, minimum payments, high account balances and credit scores, according to the notice.
The two agencies will also assemble “household demographic data,” including racial and ethnic data, gender, marital status, religion, education, employment history, military status, household composition, the number of wage earners and a family’s total wealth and assets.
Only 12 public comments were submitted during the 30-day comment period following the notice’s April 16 publication.
The mortgage database is unprecedented and would collect personal mortgage information on every single-family residential first lien loan issued since 1998. Federal officials will continue updating the database into the indefinite future.
The database held information on at least 10.1 million mortgage owners, according to a July 31, 2013, FHFA and CFPB presentation at an international conference on collateral risk.