A Constitutional Problem With Credit Reporting Bureaus by Jack Rooney
Indianapolis, 2/23/05 -- The problems of stolen personal information from the credit reporting bureaus, identity theft, and consumer fraud now occurring from security breaches in the reporting agencies would not have happened at all if Congress would have just obeyed the Constitution in the first place.
But this is what happens when legislators do not bother to read the Bill of Rights or do not understand what it says or do not care what it says.
The credit information reporting services that collect and distribute confidential, private, personal information on American citizens are all illegal, constitutionally forbidden:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html
The right of the people to be secure in their personal "papers" and "effects" (personal information) was of deep concern to the founders. It means you have the right to exclusive control over property you own, the right to be secure in it, to secure it, to control it, and that includes the information contained in those papers and effects in the form of data about you and your private business affairs. Your right to control your personal information is clearly stated in the Bill of Rights. Your data about you, your business transactions and personal business information is your personal property.
The purpose of The Fourth Amendment was not just to stop government from taking your house and physical property, your chickens and cows, without due process of law, without an order from a court, but also to stop agents of government from gathering information by searching through your personal papers and effects to see what they can see, which is exactly what the credit reporting bureaus do, they collect data without your knowledge and consent and sell it to anyone who pays a fee.
It is widely believed that the proscriptive sanction of the Fourth Amendment prevents government only from prying into your business, from searching through your papers and effects to collect information about what you are doing. But the right to be secure in one’s personal information about oneself is a constitutionally protected right that prohibits all forms of disclosure or sale of your personal information to anyone by anyone other than you. If it did not also prohibit others, government could simply sub-contract spying and prying out to private industry, like the credit reporting agencies, and claim constitutional compliance when it retrieves illegally obtained data from the independent subcontractor, the bureaus, effectively gutting the spirit and purpose of Fourth Amendment protection altogether.
The Fourth Amendment is a safeguard designed to restrain against government seizure of your personal data (property) against your will or without an order from the courts upon showing probable cause that they need it, like to investigate criminal activities.
So not only can government not collect data about you without your knowledge and consent, no one can without a court order.
But the existence, scope, and methods used by the credit reporting agencies in collecting and distributing data about you is "authorized" by Congress under the, The Fair Credit Reporting Act, and a variety of other assundry Acts designed to give congressional blessings to constitutionally prohibited credit bureau reporting activities, and if you tell them all to stop collecting and reporting your proprietary information about your personal business, they will demure that "Congress grants them the authority" to collect information on you and report it to others without your permission. End of debate. Or so it would seem.
But since Congress (government) does not have the right to collect information about you and disclose it to others without your permission, The Fourth Amendment prohibits it. Congress can not grant a right it does not have itself. In short, the Acts of Congress that set up the credit reporting bureaus in the first place, that "authorize" their activities and pseudo-legitimize their existence, are simply a classic, text-book example of Congressional overreaching, an unconstitutional act of government.
Constitutionally, credit reporting bureaus have no legitimate right to collect and distribute any confidential, proprietary business information about you at all, including your credit history, without your express permission.
The credit reporting bureaus are illegal (unconstitutional) business entities and must all be shut down, because they have no legitimate right to exist. They must be administratively dissolved by the courts, and their databases purged of information on the grounds that their very existence violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
Business will just need to find another legal and constitutional way to verify credit worthiness. The credit bureaus may have been a convenience for many businesses and perhaps even for many consumers. But convenience and constitutionality are two separate issues. Ultimately, the courts are going to need to correct and balance one over the other
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