National Security Agency data collection has received considerable attention of late, and some have likened the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s data collection efforts – like collecting information on 991 million credit card accounts – to those of the NSA. While its director, Richard Cordray, has denied the comparison, this data collection seems excessive and won’t stop future crises.
Having people in government collect information about your credit records and income seems as valid a cause for concern as having people collect information about your telephone calls. (If that doesn’t trouble you, consider the rise in federal government cybersecurity breaches documented by my colleagues, Andrea Castillo and Eli Dourado.)
Maybe the staff at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau don’t have to collect so much consumer finance data. My colleague, Thomas Stratmann, a professor of economics at George Mason University, observed that the bureau could conduct thorough analysis with much smaller samples. He found that instead of collecting information on nearly one billion credit card accounts, a sample of about 1 percent of all U.S. credit card accounts would work just as well.