Housing bill provision harms privacy, says diverse coalitionMortgagePress.comCEI, Bob Barr, ACLU, ACU, fingerprint registry, Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008
Leaders of liberal, conservative, and libertarian policy groups,
from the American Conservative Union to the American Civil
Liberties Union, have banded together to oppose a provision of the
Senate housing bill that would establish a mandatory fingerprint
registry for many workers in the mortgage and real estate
In a letter sent to Senate leaders June 24 about the Housing and
Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (currently being debated on the
Senate floor) 16 signatories write that "the provisions would
reduce privacy without any rational justification." Sent under the
auspices of the bipartisan Liberty Coalition, the letter is also
signed by former Rep. Bob Barr and the Association of American
Physicians and Surgeons.
Citing the bill's own stark language, the letter notes that the
provisions would require any worker defined as a "loan originator"
to "furnish & fingerprints for submission to the Federal Bureau
of Investigation" and a host of other government agencies. The term
"loan originator" is defined in the bill as anyone who negotiates
mortgage terms or prepares loan packages. This definition could
cover thousands of "low-level clerical employees and part-time and
seasonal workers," the letter points out.
The policy groups also state that they are "troubled by the
scope of this requirement and the lack of a justification as to how
this would serve the goal of reducing mortgage fraud." The letter
notes that there was little, if any, public debate on how
fingerprinting would reduce subprime woes.
The letter also states concern about the bill's lack of
safeguards for the data collected. Noting the problem of identity
theft of fingerprints, the groups note "the bill contains few
restrictions on access to the data and does not specify how it
should be protected."
The ideologically diverse signatories conclude the letter by
urging the lawmakers to strip the fingerprint mandates from the
bill "and oppose any final legislation containing them."
Fred L. Smith Jr., president of the Competitive Enterprise
Institute, and John Berlau, Director of CEI's Center for
Entrepreneurship, are among the signatories of the letter.
For more information, visit www.cei.org.