With all the talk of reigning in big tech, we are hearing far too much about antitrust issues and far too little about data regulation. There may or may not be good reasons to break up big companies — that’s for others to decide — but there is one very good reason we need to regulate data aggregation: people are being materially harmed by data abuse.
You may think I’m going to call out Google, Facebook, or another big tech organization. I’m not. When Facebook, Google, or other big tech companies classify and categorize your preferences, they do so with your direct and immediate feedback. Your behaviors inform and modify the way their various algorithms surface content for you. To change anything about what these companies collect or use, you navigate to their respective privacy settings and select your preferences. Most importantly, you have a choice. You do not need to use any of the big tech companies’ services, and you can live a full, productive life without them.
This is not the case with credit bureaus like TransUnion, Experian, Equifax, and Innovis.
These companies aggregate your data and create a profile without your knowledge or permission, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The credit bureaus have no direct feedback loops. The only way you find out if they collected or are using bad info (or if someone makes a mistake or a clerical error) is after you have been negatively impacted (denied credit, turned down for a job, unable to get a business certification, etc). You may never learn that you’ve been harmed because someone used your credit score to assist in their decision-making process. But if you do find out by, for example, seeing an unusual dip in your credit score, it can take months to get the credit bureaus to correct the error. In most cases, the damage cannot be undone.
The unchecked free-flow of data to the credit bureaus and a lack of meaningful regulation allows them to aggregate every datapoint that can be found about you and sell subscriptions to your data without your permission or any remuneration to you. They have the right to completely abuse your data and irreparably harm you with zero consequences. This, while our government is spending time and tax dollars going after big tech for using your data with your permission to put the content you are likely to enjoy in front of you. Perhaps our elected officials need some remediation in what data abuse really looks like.
Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.