Think what companies know about you because you provided the info. Combine that with government records, and there's a data picture that some say might predict behavior.
At least one credit bureau, TransUnion, sees a way to help the government conduct background checks and even real-time analysis of whether federal employees are at risk for getting blackmailed or exhibiting other unwanted behavior.
The federal security clearance background check system is transitioning from the Federal Investigative Services (FIS) to a new entity called the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB). Trends in consumer credit could help inform government decisions as the NBIB seeks to anticipate insider threats.
Public data about Americans includes court judgments, bankruptcies, marriages, divorces and driver history. Meanwhile financial history on millions of consumers is collected under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the federal law that regulates how consumer reporting agencies use your information.
Fiscal 2017 Defense policy legislation passed in both houses of Congress in May calls for the Defense Department to develop new security clearance information technology architecture to replace the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) legacy system, and House and Senate negotiators will hammer out differences in the two bills in the coming months. The reworking is a response to Chinese hackers' theft of OPM information about those seeking security clearances from the U.S. government.
TransUnion's proprietary sets of credit, criminal and public data, coupled with flexible analytics, can help government discover connections between people, businesses, assets and locations that lead to informed decisions to ensure citizen safety, said Jonathan McDonald, executive vice president of TransUnion's government information solutions business unit.
"There are only a few companies that we compete with, but TransUnion is the only information solutions provider in the market that owns datasets that provide comprehensive coverage over both credit (FCRA) and non-credit (public and proprietary records) data," McDonald said.
Experian and Equifax, along with about 300 to 400 lesser known credit ratings agencies also operate in the United States, overseen by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Experian and Equifax had no comment on the development of the NBIB.
For national security purposes, TransUnion says its data can be used to help identify or predict insider threats ranging from espionage to active shooter situations. Trend analysis, based on government policy directives, as well as real-time, continuous monitoring for suspicious behaviors could inform government officials of potential threats related to government system access, sharing of U.S. secrets or enhancing citizen safety.
The NBIB is expected to have a senior privacy official to advance "privacy by design." Could the outcome be like the plot of TV's "Person of Interest" where pattern recognition is used to identify fictional individuals who will soon be involved in violent crimes?
Exactly how the NBIB plans to conduct background checks already has prompted congressional interest. Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill and Jon Tester contacted OPM in May and raised concerns about the transition of the background check system to NBIB. A spokesman for Tester said the senator's office has received an oral briefing but no written reply yet from acting OPM Director Beth Cobert.
"Senator Tester remains deeply concerned about how NBIB will improve the quality of the background investigations, and he needs more assurances that NBIB isn't the old agency under a new name," Tester's spokesman Dave Kuntz said.