Is your private data being sold?

Accessing your free annual credit report may actually come at the cost of your private data being sold to banks and other companies.

Privacy advocates are criticising online credit reporting company Veda after an ANZ representative admitted to receiving a customer’s personal details from the agency.

One such customer, who believed he had been extremely careful with his information, was sent a personalised letter from the ANZ bank asking him if he’d like to become a ‘platinum member’.

The customer, who is being referred to by Fairfax Media as Simon, was surprised at the personal detail included in this invitation, so he contacted the bank and, after weeks of hassling, eventually found out that the information was passed on to the bank by Veda.

“I got the letter a few weeks after I bought my personal credit report from Veda which I needed for a new contract,” said Simon. “I feel my privacy’s been breached, but I did fill out the form in a rush because I was under pressure, so they may have gotten my consent without me realising.”

By law, Australians have the right to access a free, once-yearly credit report. Many do this by filling out an online form, often through agencies such as Veda. Simon believes he must not have unchecked a pre-ticked box at the bottom of the form which gave permission to Veda to pass on his details to its ‘corporate partners’ for marketing purposes.

Credit reporting agencies, such as Veda, are prohibited by law from selling credit information for marketing purposes.

According to Professor of Law at Monash University, Justin Malbon, it was highly likely that Veda knew that placing a pre-ticked box on the form would mean more people would give their consent, albeit unknowingly.

“Many behavioural studies show there’s an inertia and a ‘not noticing’, leading to more people leaving it ticked and giving their consent,” said Professor Malbon. “If you turned the other way and asked people to opt-in, you’re going to get far less people.”

And although customers should be cautious when filling out such forms, according to Fairfax Media, the box wasn’t pre-ticked until recently.

The Financial Rights Legal Centre’s Kat Lane has called on Veda to remove the pre-ticked box altogether.

“You’re getting your free credit report that we’re allowed once every 12 months under the law, and they’re using it as a marketing opportunity,” said Ms Lane. “How on earth is it relevant to getting your free credit report? That’s just misleading.”

A Veda spokesperson has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that, “Veda’s approach is in accordance with its obligations under the Privacy Act and the Australian Privacy Principles.”

There are also fears that privacy is being further breached by Veda, after reports last week that the NAB was being informed by the credit reporting agency each time a business banking customer approached a rival financial institution about business loans.

Instances such as these are reasons why Opposition leader Bill Shorten has called for a royal commission into banking practices – a measure that has been dismissed by the Coalition.

Are you worried that your personal information is being sold? Do you practice caution when filling out online forms such as a free credit report? Is it the responsibility of the customer to safeguard their personal information? Do you think this is a dodgy practice? Do you think we need a watchdog or royal commission into banking practices?

Related articles:
Will your metadata be exposed?
Keep your metadata private
Protecting your privacy

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