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Sen. Rockefeller challenges Experian credit bureau CEO

| Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, 8:36 p.m.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Aug. 3, 2011.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who has a reputation for going after data brokers, sent a letter to the CEO of Experian when he learned that one of the credit bureau's recent acquisitions had sold Social Security numbers to identity thieves.

KrebsOnSecurity has been conducting an investigation of a number of surreptitious sales among companies and countries. Former Washington Post writer Brian Krebs and his readers were able to backtrack from “sourceid” metadata attached to consumer records being sold online. The data led to an American company, USInfoSearch.com, whose CEO in turn blamed a third company, Court Ventures, with whom they had signed an information-sharing agreement.

Court Ventures, which “aggregates, repackages and distributes public record data, obtained from over 1,400 state and county sources,” was bought by Experian about a year ago.

U.S. Info Search's CEO says that the people selling this extraordinarily sensitive information accessed Experian's records by posing as a U.S.-based private investigator. They are based in Vietnam.

U.S. Info Search found out about the leak only because it was contacted by the Secret Service, which had obtained a grand jury subpoena against the company. In other words, there's a possibility that Experian might be prosecuted. Acquisitions come with liabilities.

Rockefeller is demanding answers from Donald Robert, Experian's CEO. What seems particularly worrying to Rockefeller, as Natasha Singer reported in The New York Times, is “whether Experian as a company has appropriate practices in place for vetting its customers and sharing sensitive consumer data with them, regardless of the particular line of business.”

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