Equifax exposes third of US workers with Work Number database

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 By

Magnifying Glass

Credit bureau Equifax offers a database called The Work Number, offering everything there is to know about a person’s work history under a magnifying glass, without their knowledge or consent. Photo Credit: Wolfen Silva/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

There’s a database that credit bureau Equifax is selling access to and a lot of people probably aren’t happy with the odds that their information is on it. It’s called The Work Number and it lists employer and salary among other information of roughly one-third of the American population.

Salary, employer info of one-third of the nations’ workforce for sale through Work Number

Information is a commodity. Many types of companies make money selling it, like social sites, search engines, credit bureaus, and so on.

How else would Facebook be worth so much? It isn’t worth billions of dollars because it induces so many people to get “your” and “you’re” wrong, like the idiots they are. It’s valuable because Facebook sells information about you, me, your friends and your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate, to whomever wants it.

Which is how so many emails wind up in your inbox about “barnyardfun.com.”

One credit bureau, Equifax, wants to give its customers everything it can. A new Equifax database, The Work Number, has the employment information and compensation information for about one-third of adults in the U.S., according to NBC News.

For sale to anyone but subject of records

Equifax had reached 30 percent of the population in The Work Number by 2009; 12 million people’s records are added every year. About 190 million records are available currently, according to the Daily Mail.

The kind of information available in the database includes annual salary, monthly paystubs, human resources information including complaints by or against an employee, whether a person has ever sued an employer, filed for unemployment, information about benefits providers such as medical or dental benefits, basically everything there is to know about a person’s career.

Functional but evil

Not only that, businesses pay Equifax to give them the data. The Work Number began life as a division of an HR firm called TALX. Equifax bought the rights to it in 2007. The idea is so that prospective employers and other parties who ostensibly have permission to view the information can do so easily.

Landlords, loan guarantors and potential employers can see work and income history, to determine whether to rent to, lend loans to, or hire a person, if indeed a company pins hiring decisions to credit reports, which the Work Number technically is. However, there is the issue of debt collectors being allowed access to the data, which Equifax insists doesn’t happen, though whether they can be depended on to keep it from happening is the question.

Everyone vulnerable

The issue with The Work Number is the same issue with Google, Facebook, Apple and a host of other companies. They sell the information to outside companies, which then use it to either innocuous, completely unknown or nefarious ends, such as selling “$1 Vigara” through email. However, selling people’s information doesn’t go over well with the public all the time, such as the various class action suits Facebook was facing as of the middle of 2012, according to ZDNet.

Sources

Daily Mail

NBC News

ZDNet

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