The World Privacy Forum has issued Part III of its report. Here’s how the Executive Summary begins:
The US federal government is one of the largest and most frequent customers of commercial data brokers. Instead of creating its own databases subject to privacy laws applicable to federal agencies, the federal government often outsources the collection of significant amounts of information to external companies where privacy laws do not apply. It is well-established that commercial data brokers have been and are widely used in this manner for government law enforcement activities. However, that is not their only use by government.
In April 2012, the US Treasury launched a Do Not Pay portal designed to verify and check on the eligibility of individuals to receive government benefits and payments, such as those receiving food stamps, housing assistance, and survivor benefits. The scope of the people and vendors affected by the information in the portal is quite broad. The portal includes government-operated databases with information about individuals, databases that are usually subject to the Privacy Act of 1974. However, the Do Not Pay portal also includes information from a commercial database called The Work Number. The Work Number, owned by Equifax, is not a government-held database and is not subject to the Privacy Act.
This is important because The Work Number collects salary and other information on more than 190 million Americans.