The article is from a newsletter - there is no direct link, so forgive me for posting the whole thing!
The Work Number: What it is … and why it should concern you
There is a company owned by Equifax, one of the nation’s most respected credit reporting agencies called The Work Number. If you haven’t heard of it yet, read on; you might be surprised at what you read.
The folks at The Work Number have worked hard to compile some very personal information about us – and once they have it, things get a little dicey. Specifically, more than 190 million adults’ salary and employment information has been collected, and this information is in turn sold to financial establishments, debt collectors and other companies.
This could be a huge breach of privacy; after all, even on the most invasive of social media sites such as Facebook, we’ve never seen anyone post his or her salary!
Your first question may be, “How is The Work Number getting this information?” Through the helping hand of our employers, that’s how! Thousands of businesses happily work with The Work Number – including some government agencies and Fortune 500 companies. In fact, some even pay The Work Number for the right to give them this information.
Why would a company want to sign up? Usually it’s to avoid a future legal difficulty. The service allows a company to outsource employment verification of a former employee. For example, if an ex-employee is trying to get a new job, they no longer have to deal with the hassle or risk a lawsuit (if someone says something negative about the former employee).
NBC News recently attempted to contact Equifax on this very topic. They refused to be interviewed on camera and only issued a statement saying everything they were doing was above board and was done with Fair Credit Reporting Act guidelines in mind.
But Bob Sullivan of NBC wrote: Its database is so detailed that it contains week-by-week paystub information dating back years for many individuals, as well as other kinds of human resources-related information, such as health care provider, whether someone has dental insurance and if they’ve ever filed an unemployment claim. In 2009, Equifax said the data covered 30 percent of the U.S. working population, and it now says The Work Number is adding 12 million records annually.
The information available on The Work Number is extremely detailed. I work in social services and I use this site almost daily to verify income and employment status for SNAP and Medicaid applicants. Many employers won't provide verification to their employees anymore... they are simply referred to The Work Number.
I don't care about which rules they're following; someone profiting via selling (or obtaining) my personal information is something I'm entirely against. CRA's are one thing. My company selling off my paperwork is another.
I've seen some of the reports from the Work Number. They have everything on you as far as employment and income. Did you moonlight, working a part time job ? It may be there in the file - and guess what - next time you apply for employment somewhere you better disclose that part time job at the car wash or you could be accused of filing a false employment application.
Also, I wonder if the IRS can use this information to verify your income tax returns, or to collect back taxes ?
It seems to me that individuals should be able to opt out and have this information destroyed, but I haven't heard of any US legal right to do that (believe it or not). Whatever happened to the Consitution and the BIll of Rights ? Well, they never anticipated the world we live in today. I believe this kind of information collection and use is illegal in Europe. Why are we allowing this here in the U.S. ? Doesn't this information belong to the individual, not an information service ? What laws prevent these information collectors from collecting and selling this information and what does this have to do with FCRA anyway ?
Folks.....We have been asleep at the wheel on this one. Look out.
Many years ago, this was done as common practice. Sad part you were NOT allowed to correct incorrect information or gossip. At the time it was declared not acceptable and stopped (supposedly). Now besides the IRS and NSA we have WorkNumber?! Gads! Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Google and so on... there is no privacy in a country you are innocent until proven guilty?
It's more like guilty until proven innocent...
I really hope that isn't true.
Unfortunately, it's true. Been around a while now.
My company provides The Work Number. It's not bad in any way, and you can get your file for free.
All it has is your payment information (salary + position). As far as I can see, the only "requesters" listed on my file are Equifax themselves (used to generate verification questions when you get your free annual report).
I'm actually surprised that credit issuers aren't checking it for income verification. Would save a lot of hassle.