Big brother watching while you shop

FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2015 file photo, shoppers carry bags as they cross a pedestrian walkway near Macy's in Herald Square in New York. The unseasonably warm weather has left some people feeling cold about holiday shopping. Sales of cold-weather items have been particularly icy. Sales of women's boots in New York, are down 24 percent for the first half of December, according to Planalytics, a weather forecasting firm for retailers. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(WTNH/WZVN) — When you go shopping this holiday season, you may not realize that every time you swipe the government is keeping tabs. One Senator calls the program worse than the NSA spying scandal but consumer experts say you have nothing to worry about.

It’s your money and your choice what to do with it. We’re always looking for ways to help you save more of it, but one U.S. Senator says you may not be the only one physically watching your accounts. Recent data breaches have shoppers on edge this holiday season as they head out to stores and hand over their credit cards. But, someone else may be watching: big brother.

“People don’t know how much personal data is being collected on them by this rogue agency,” said Republican Senator David Perdue.

Perdue is talking about the consumer financial protection bureau or CFPB which monitors banks and lenders following the 2008 financial crisis. He says the bureau collects 95 percent of all transactions. Remember we had a dust-up last year over the NSA and the accusations that they were listening to our phone calls and reading our emails and texts?  This is far more perverse than that. The bureau is funded through the fed, meaning congress doesn’t oversee it, and can’t tinker with the rules. Perdue says the solution is to bring the bureau under congressional control, so it can create more safeguards. But some consumer experts argue it’s really about two things giving congress more power and allowing bank lobbyists control over banking laws.

“They don’t want any money spent investigating them.  They’d rather have the senate at their beck and call to investigate the CFPB,” said Ed Mierzwinski, with a Public Interest Research Group.

WZVN reporter Chance Seales says the bureau declined to go on camera, but explained credit card information is bought from a third-party that already supplies it to other agencies … and consist of de-identified information aggregated on a monthly basis. The database does not contain information that identifies the date, the location, the merchant, or the items purchased in any transaction.”

Still, Sen. Perdue  insists there’s no way of proving that, given the bureau’s independence.

“We don’t know who has access to it, in fact, we don’t know much about it because we have no regulatory rights to oversee it,” Sen. Perdue said.

The bureau says it’s doing a good thing recouping more than $12 billion for consumers in the past five years for what they call unfair and abusive practices by financial institutions. It really should come as no surprise. You know those store loyalty cards we have to all of our favorite shops,  many of them store your purchases too which can be good for coupons and easily pulling up past purchases but if you don’t like tracking, your first step can be to stop using those. Paying with good old cash is another way to ensure your privacy.

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