CFPB Director: Yes, We Have Data. No, We’re Not the NSA.

“You are giving me quotes about the NSA, which is not us and not what we are doing,” Richard Cordray tells a House committee.

Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) provided opening keynote remarks.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Jan. 28, 2014, 8:32 a.m.

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The Con­sumer Fin­an­cial Pro­tec­tion Bur­eau and Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency both col­lect data. They are both fed­er­al agen­cies. So does that make them the same thing?

At least one House mem­ber seems to think so.

Con­sumer Fin­an­cial Pro­tec­tion Bur­eau chief Richard Cordray ap­peared be­fore the House Fin­an­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee on Tues­day to de­liv­er a semi­an­nu­al re­port on the work of his agency. His open­ing testi­mony covered im­ple­ment­a­tion of the Dodd-Frank Act and ef­forts to im­prove con­sumers’ fin­an­cial lit­er­acy.

But Rep. Randy Neuge­bauer wasn’t in­ter­ested in any of that. The Texas Re­pub­lic­an wanted to know wheth­er the data the bur­eau was col­lect­ing about con­sumers was safe and not jeop­ard­iz­ing the pri­vacy of every­day Amer­ic­ans. “You are col­lect­ing a lot of data and you are do­ing the best you can,” he offered.

Neuge­bauer then began quot­ing at length from Pres­id­ent Obama’s Jan. 17 policy speech that out­lined some re­forms to the NSA be­fore he launched in­to a quix­ot­ic series of ques­tions.

“You are say­ing that you are not [ab­us­ing the data you col­lect], but the pres­id­ent says we can­not al­ways take that at face value,” Neuge­bauer said. “Can this data be re­verse en­gin­eered?”

Cordray, the agency’s first dir­ect­or, re­spon­ded: “You are giv­ing me quotes about the NSA, which is not us and not what we are do­ing.”

But Neuge­bauer was un­deterred. “You are in a con­test [with the NSA] of who can col­lect the most in­form­a­tion.”

Cordray, a bit agit­ated, shot back: “I fun­da­ment­ally re­ject the cat­egor­iz­a­tion. In terms of what we are do­ing, we are mak­ing every ef­fort to be very care­ful in sat­is­fy­ing the fed­er­al law in terms of se­cur­ity and pri­vacy and in terms of treat­ing con­sumers prop­erly.”

Neuge­bauer pro­ceeded to ask some vari­ation of “can your data be re­verse en­gin­eered?” an­oth­er three times un­til his time ex­pired.

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